Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Tropical Kingbird

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Tyrannidae | [latin] Tyrannus melancholicus | [UK] Tropical Kingbird | [FR] Tyran melancolique | [DE] rauerkonigstyrann | [ES] Tirano Melancolico | [IT] Tiranno tropicale | [NL] Tropische Koningstiran


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Tyrannus melancholicus NA, LA sw USA to c Argentina
Tyrannus melancholicus despotes
Tyrannus melancholicus melancholicus
Tyrannus melancholicus satrapa

Physical charateristics

Tyrannus melancholicus has a long, dark forked tail and a fairly large bill. It weighs 32 to 43 g, is 18 to 23 cm long and has a wingspan of about 12 cm. Its head is a pale Grey with contrasting darker cheeks and a patch of reddish orange on its crown. It has Greyish-olive upperparts, a pale throat, a darker upper breast and a bright yellow lower breast. The plumage is not greatly affected by seasonal change. The sexes are similar except for the size of the reddish-orange crown-patch and the difference in shape of the outer primaries (males’ primaries are more distinctly notched). Females tend to weigh slightly more than males. Although juvenile tropical kingbirds are physically similar to adults, they have browner upperparts and pale edges to their wings.

Listen to the sound of Tropical Kingbird

[audio: Kingbird.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 24 cm
incubation min.: 15 days incubation max.: 17 days
fledging min.: 18 days fledging max.: 19 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


This bird breeds from southern Arizona and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the USA through Central America, South America as far as south as central Argentina and western Peru, and on Trinidad and Tobago.


Tropical kingbirds are found in open woodlands, (particularly cottonwoods) that are near ponds or flowing streams. They can be found up to 2000 m in elevation. They inhabit open or semi-open country, avoiding densely forested areas, and can be found in temperate and tropical climates. Tropical kingbirds may also live in parks and suburbs.


Tyrannus melancholicus is monogamous. The male will advertise his potential nesting site by calling. Calling is an important aspect of pair-bond formation; the pair bonds can last throughout the year or for just one mating season. When courting, a perched male will flap its wings, sometimes lifting off from its perched position. Tyrannus melancholicus may show aggressive behavior when defending its territory; chases often occur during the breeding season. Such aggressive behavior may include ruffling of crown feathers and a harsh series of vocalized twitters. Because tropical kingbirds have a broad breeding range, the timing of breeding varies from place to place. They have one brood per season, with a clutch of 2 to 4 eggs. The egg-laying interval is between 1 and 2 days, and incubation lasts 15 to 16 days. Like many other birds, the nest is an open-cup that is usually located mid-story or in the canopy. The chicks fledge in 18 to 19 days and are independent in 32 to 33 days. Both the incubating and the brooding is done by the female only; nestlings are brooded until they are 10 days old. During this time, the female may leave the nest to forage for food, but she makes sure to forage near the nest. The male remains close to the nest to defend it, sometimes moving even closer if the female leaves the nest to forage for food. Both the female and male, however, take on the responsibility of feeding the nestlings insects and berries. It takes the nestlings approximately 18 to 19 days to fledge, and after fledging they are fed by their parents for at least another 2 weeks.

Feeding habits

Tyrannus melancholicus is primarily an insectivore; it also occasionally feeds on fruit. It feeds mostly on flying insects, including Coleoptera (beetles), Hymenoptera (particularly bees and wasps), Isoptera (termites), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Odonata (dragonflies), and Orthoptera (grasshoppers). Its fruit diet consists of seeded fruits and berries.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 17,000,000 km

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