Eastern Kingbird | Tyrannus tyrannus
Common summer resident
Eastern kingbirds are found in grassland or agricultural areas with scattered trees, woodlands, savannas, forest edges, and city parks. They build their large, thick walled, sturdy cup nests with twigs, grass, and even human trash, often near water. Since the 1960s, populations have decreased by 40 percent due to habitat loss and insecticides.
A king must have a crown, and the eastern kingbird is no exception. This king wears a crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers, but conceals it until encountering a predator. The scientific name Tyrannus, meaning “tyrant, despot, or king,” refers to kingbirds’ aggression toward each other and other species.
The eastern kingbird is an aerial hunter, snatching large flying insects, like wasps, beetles, and grasshoppers, on the wing. Using bristly feathers near its bill, the kingbird funnels the unsuspecting prey into its mouth. The kingbird returns to its perch where it bangs the insect on a branch and swallows it. A small amount of berries and other fruit are eaten in summer, but kingbirds switch to a diet of mostly fruit while wintering in South America.
As a member of the flycatcher family, kingbirds serve as a natural check on insect populations, helping control the numbers of a variety of insects.
Eastern kingbirds have one brood each year. A typical clutch consists of two to five eggs, incubated in 14–17 days. Hatchlings fledge in 16–17 days. Eastern kingbirds arrive in Missouri the second half of April, and migrate to South America by mid-August to early September.
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