Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Tyrannidae | [latin] Tyrannus verticalis | [UK] Western Kingbird | [FR] Tyran de l’Ouest | [DE] Arkansastyrann | [ES] Tirano Occidental | [NL] Arkansaskoningstiran


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

The most widespread kingbird in the West. Like several similar species, it has a yellowish belly and gray head, but the black tail has a narrow white edging on each side.

Listen to the sound of Western Kingbird

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/W/Western Kingbird.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America : West, Central


Semi-open country, farms, roadsides, towns.
Breeds in open terrain with trees to provide nest sites; may be in farmland, groves or streamside trees in prairie country, semi-desert scrub; avoids true desert. Also in towns; where trees are lacking, will ne
st on artificial structures. Where ranges overlap, typically in more open country than Eastern or Cassin’s kingbirds.


Male defends territory by singing, giving “dawn song” incessantly at first hint of daylight. In courtship, male performs flight display, rapidly flying up and down in vertical zigzags, giving rapid sputtering calls.
Nest: Site varies, usually in tree in vertical fork or on horizontal limb, 15-30′ above ground. Also often nests on utility poles, sometimes on building ledges or towers, in empty sheds, on cliff
ledges, or in abandoned nests of other birds. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is a cup of grass, weeds, twigs, plant fibers, lined with finer materials such as feathers, plant down, animal hair, bits of paper.
Eggs: 3-5, rarely up to 7. Whitish, heavily blotched with brown, lavender, and black. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 18-19 days.
Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 16-17 days after hatching.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects.
Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially wasps, bees, beetles, and grasshoppers, also flies, true bugs, caterpillars, moths, and many others. Also eats some spiders and millipedes, and regularly eats small numbers of berries and fruits.
Behavior: Forages mostly by watching from a perch and then flying out to snap up insects in its bill. May perch low or high; may catch insects in midair, or may hover and then drop to the ground to catch them.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Western Kingbird status Least Concern


Southwestern Canada to northern Mexico. Winters to Costa Rica. Migration: Often migrates in small flocks. A few stray eastward every fall, appearing along Atlantic Coast; some of these birds move south to winter in Florida.

Distribution map

Western Kingbird distribution range map

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