The Eastern kingbird can be a real tyrant
Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton
Family TYRANNIDAE, scientific name Tyrannus tyrannus. Sounds like some type of dinosaur, doesn’t it? It is not what you might expect; this scientific name is that of the Eastern kingbird. You will commonly spot this handsome bird perched on a wire, or high up on a tree or weed stalk catching insects. This 22 cm-long bird has a black cap, forehead, cheeks and bill. White throat, charcoal gray back, white under parts, and black tail with a white terminal band are other distinguishing marks.
The Latin name means “king of the tyrants”. This aggressive bird, when defending its nest, will be seen chasing and pestering larger species like hawks, crows, and turkey vultures. Extremely agile in its attacks, the kingbird will pull out the other birds’ feathers and generally make their lives miserable.
According to Fred J. Alsop III, PhD in Ornithology, the Eastern kingbird winters in South America where its diet becomes mostly berries. The male performs erratic courtship flights, circling, hovering and tumbling with tail spread. This bird is monogamous and a solitary nester. Young are fed by both parents for 16-18 days.
Your chances of spotting a member of this distinctive species are extremely good, as its population is common and widespread. Watch out for them along the roadside, perched on fences, utility wires, shrubs or posts.
Current Backyard Sightings
We have been enjoying a tremendous number of rose-breasted grosbeaks in the yard this summer. Throughout the day you can count ten or more members of this beautiful species on the feeders. The spring fledgling males are in their immature phase of plumage. The breast is rusty in colour with multiple streaks, and the distinctive red triangular patch is not yet developed. Other common species noted are house finches, downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches and the very friendly chickadees. We continue feeding all summer. Don’t forget to keep the birdbath full of fresh water.
We have also had a green heron visit our water garden on several occasions. Less than half the size of the great blue heron, this individual is fairly young and the plumage on its head is quite fluffy. He is a deep shade of green with distinctive yellow legs, and does not spook easily when we approach the water garden. However, the frog population appears to have diminished.