Eastern Kingbirds play an important role in the ecosystem. They feast on insects and are famous for grabbing bugs while they are in flight, earning them membership in a group of birds called flycatchers. They like backyards with lots of bugs, so put away the bug spray and welcome these birds to your home.
The Eastern Kingbird population has decreased by almost half in the last 50 years because of habitat loss and insecticides. The global breeding population is still around 27 million, so conservationists have categorized the Kingbird as Low Concern.
Eastern Kingbirds are 7.5-9 inches long and weigh between 1.2 and 2 ounces.
The oldest known wild Eastern Kingbird lived at least 10 years.
The scientific name for the Eastern Kingbird is Tyrannus tyrannus, which means tyrant- tyrant. These birds will chase away crows, hawks, and squirrels from their nest area, apparently forgetting that they are tiny in comparison.
The Eastern Kingbird also has a crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers on its head, but it is rarely visible. But when it sees a predator, the bird dons its full military regalia, including its bright crown patch, and a gaping red mouth, and dive bombs its opponent.
Kingbirds eat prey that is much larger than they are, including small frogs.
Kingbirds in Virginia
Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus Tyrannus) are native to Virginia. They spend their summers here and then migrate west and south for the winter, visiting an area that runs from Colorado to Central America. Get to know these hard traveling seasonalneighbors!
Eastern Kingbird Reproduction:
Eastern Kingbirds generally stay with the same mate over years and build their nests in exposed tree branches near water to ensure a steady supply of insects. The female choses the site, although the male will make suggestions by perching in a particular place. The female takes 1-2 weeks to build the nest while the male guards her by watching for predators.
Fledgling Eastern Kingbird:
Kingbird babies have closed eyes and orange skin when they hatch. Both parents feed them so they grow quickly and fledge 16-17 days after birth. The parents continue to feed their offspring small and large insects for 7 weeks, which is why they only produce one brood a year, the probable reason for their aggressiveness and territoriality.
Eastern Kingbird Migration:
Eastern Kingbirds arrive in Virginia in the late spring, returning to the same territory where they nested the year before and reuniting with their mates. They migrate south and west to the Mexican coast in August and September. During the winter their behavior changes greatly: they forage for berries in flocks, losing their aggressiveness and abandoning their insect diet.