Western kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

SUBFAMILY

Tyranninae

TAXONOMY

Tyrannus verticalis T. Say, 1823, La Junta, Colorado. Mono-typic.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Arkansas kingbird; French: Tyran de l'Ouest; German: Arkansastyrann; Spanish: Pitirre Occidental.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

8.75 in (22 cm); 1.4 oz (40 g). Plumage includes pale ashy gray head, neck, and breast, olive-green tinted back, bright lemon-yellow underparts, and dark brown wings. Tail is squared and black with white outer edges. Feet and legs are black. Bill is small, flat, and black. The crown, rarely erect, hides a red-orange patch. Sexes are similar.

DISTRIBUTION

Occurs throughout the western half of the continental United States, with limited extensions into western Canada and northern Mexico. Winters in southwestern Mexico and Central America. Vagrants are common during migration in the southeastern United States.

HABITAT

Semiarid open areas and grasslands with scattered trees. During the twentieth century, range expanded with the spread of agriculture; buildings, utility structures, and fences provide new foraging perches and nest sites. Lives gregariously in urban areas; up to three pairs can nest in the same tree.

BEHAVIOR

Lives singly, in pairs, or in small groups. Male performs courtship flight display, involving upward darting flight, fluttering and vibrating of feathers, and trilling vocalizations. Regular call is a quiet, quick "bek!" Also chatters abrasively: "ker-er-ip, ker-er-ip, pree preee pr-prrr." Known for being aggressively territorial, often chasing large birds such as hawks, crows, and ravens away from its nesting area.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Sallies from low, middle, and high perches in open areas to catch insects in midair, returning to the same perch. Hovers momentarily over prey before dipping to catch. Also takes fruits and berries.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous breeders, in solitary pairs or in small colonies. Nests are built by both sexes, near the trunk on a horizontal limb or on a cross-arm of a human-made structure. Nest is cup-shaped. Clutches of three to seven eggs are incubated 18 to 19 days by the female; and young are fed by both parents and fledge after 16 to 17 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Well-known locally. ♦

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