Birds of the Mid-Atlantic #19: Eastern Kingbird
In comparison to other flycatchers, eastern kingbirds are larger, bulkier, have larger bills, and have more contrast between their black topsides and white undersides. The most prominent characteristic setting apart eastern kingbirds is the white band at the tip of the tail. This feature is easily noted even at a distance or in poor lighting. Kingbirds will sometimes flex this band in their territorial displays.
Kingbirds prefer open fields and grasslands. There they can sit out on a wire or branch and make sallies to catch insects. Yet these common birds can be found in less bucolic settings, even in urban areas. Kingbirds regularly spend the summer on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol. One summer a pair nested in a tree on my downtown street, hardly ideal kingbird habitat!
When an eastern kingbird is sitting out in the open, it looks every part its name - kingbird in English and Tyrannus tyrannus in scientific terminology. The plumage is crisp and bold like a business suit while the bird's posture conveys that it is the boss of its territory. Attacks on other birds exhibit the bullying insinuated in its name. It is a common complaint of birders that some bird names mischaracterize the bird, but in the case of the kingbird, the name is apt.
Labels: Birds of the Mid-Atlantic