Home garden design > The Bird Garden > Kingbird bird picture

Kingbird bird picture

Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) - 8.50 inches

The Kingbird is another pugnacious character. Apparently he spends most of his time in chasing insects or in driving other birds off his territory. He has a good deal of style for a rather plain bird, which is evidenced in his crested black head and beautifully toned gray-white breast, as well as his dignified if not defiant, straight carriage.

The upper parts are slate gray; smoky black on head and shoulders; tail black, tip margined white, a conspicuous mark for identification; an orange-red crown-patch is hidden by the dark feathers of the head except when the whole crest is erect; under parts dull white tinged with gray on the breast. Female similar. Nest, compact and circular, woven of grass, moss, weed-stalks, and rootlets, lined with plant­down and similar soft material.

It is generally situated at the fork of a branch and near its extremity, from fifteen to twentyfive feet above ground. Egg, white with sepia brown specks. The range of the bird is pretty nearly throughout North America, from New Brunswick and Manitoba southward.

The Kingbird has no song, but he has some conversational ability of a limited though stridulous character. It is not difficult to place the tone of his voice on the musical staff, although there is not a bit of music in that tone. His remarks as he stands on some high perch commanding a wide outlook are a trifle monotonous: Ker-rip, ker-rip, quirp, each with a rising inflection, and then Ker-r-r-r, ker-r-r-r, ker-r-r-r, in a decidedly burred or double-tone note, which may be imitated by humming and whistling simultaneously.

The music should appear about like the following, though it should be remembered a single tone with a shifting pitch, and that, too, not a musical tone, is all one hears: An old apple-tree is a favorite resort of the Kingbird, and in this the nest is frequently built within plain sight.

The male bird stands guard over the premises, and woe to the individual who wings his flight that way; it usually means a chase to the bitter end. I have frequently seen the Kingbird chase a Crow for a quarter of a mile, because the latter dared to fly within the limits of the orchard. He is, indeed,: as his name would imply, the Tyrant Flycatcher, though he is not a tyrannical husband; for it is as plain as clay he treats his mate with the utmost consideration, guarding the nest with assiduous care while she is away in search of food.

I have never seen him assist in building a nest, or in the domestic cares involved with the, brooding period, but he is afterward very attentive in feeding the young. Olive Thorne Miller writes: " while his mate is sitting - and possibly at other times - he indulges in a soft and very pleasing song, which I have heard only in the very early morning." But my own experience is contrary to that. I have never heard such a, song, but rather have noticed that the birds were particularly aggressive and saucy in the morning, as though they had waked up in a bad humor and wanted to rout everyone else out. The notes about six A.M. may be rightly interpreted thus: Wake­up, wake-up, lazy, cur, cur-r-r-r, cur-r-r-r!

The Kingbird catches his food on the wing. Watch him carefully as he sits on his commanding perch and you will see he takes short excursions in mid-air after some insect which has ventured too near. Notice him again if a Hawk should pass a hundred feet overhead, and you will see him dart upward after the enemy, dash recklessly at him with threatening bill, and in other ways make the big bird's life burdensome as he flies for a distance of half a mile more or less.