Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus


Early Spring Date: April 27
Late Spring Date: May 25
Infrequently Seen

Eastern Kingbirds are common spring migrants in the Washington metro area. They breed in the area, but they are infrequently seen at Monticello Park. You can see nesting kingbirds at various places along the Potomac River, including Belle Haven and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Where to See Them in the Park

Eastern Kingbirds prefer woodland clearings, often near water, and Monticello does not offer that habitat. There is no best place to look for them in the park.

Physical Description


Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird - Photo by William Young

Eastern Kingbirds have a gray back, white underparts, and a prominent white band at the end of their tail. They have a small reddish-orange patch on their crown, which is usually concealed. Both the male and the female have concealed crowns, and their plumage is similar.

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird showing terminal tail band - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Eastern Kingbird
Two Eastern Kingbirds quarreling, red crown patch apparent on one - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Eastern Kingbird
Three Eastern Kingbirds quarreling - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Vocalizations

The call of the kingbird is a long series of high-pitched notes, sharp like electric zaps. The aggressiveness of the song makes it sound as if the kingbird is trying to sing louder, but is not capable of doing so.

Hear the vocalizations of the Eastern Kingbird.

Notes

The Eastern Kingbird is a tyrant flycatcher. The word "tyrant" now suggests a despotic ruler. It used to mean simply a lord, but because so many lords were despotic, the word developed a negative connotation. The scientific name of the Eastern Kingbird is Tyrannus tyrannus, which is a tautonym — that means the genus and species name are the same. Relatively few birds in North America are tautonyms. Perhaps the most notable is the Anhinga. Its scientific name is Anhinga anhinga, and it is the only bird in the world whose common name, genus name, and species name are the same.

Origin of Names

Common Name: Eastern from its breeding range. Kingbird from the crown on its head or its aggressiveness.
Genus and Species Names: Tyrannus means "lord".

Eastern Kingbird video footage

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