South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus

Length: 8.5 inches Wingspan: 15 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: White band on tip of black tail, dark upperparts with white underparts

Eastern Kingbird - Tyrannus tyrannus Eastern Kingbirds are one of the "tyrant flycatchers".  They will defend it's nest in an extremely aggressive manner, even attacking much larger birds that come too close.  As with other flycatchers, they often feed by observing from a perch and flying out to catch insects in mid-air.  Eastern Kingbirds are very common sights in the summer along fence lines and posts in most of the state.

Habitat: Woodland edges, roadsides, farms, shelterbelts, scattered trees. Requires open space for hunting and trees for nesting. 

Diet: Mostly insects, including grasshoppers, flies, beetles, bees, and wasps.  Also will eat fruit and berries. 

Behavior: In addition to capturing flying insects, Eastern Kingbirds will also hover and glean insects from vegetation foliage and other surfaces.  While they are extremely territorial during their summer months in South Dakota, they form large flocks in their wintering grounds in South America.

Nesting: Early June through July.  The nest of an Eastern Kingbird is a cup of grasses, sticks, weeds, and other vegetative material.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs, and she does the majority of the incubation.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help feed the young.  The young fledge after about 18 days, but parents typically continue to feed the young for several weeks after fledging occurs.

Song: Eastern Kingbird Song

Migration: Neotropical migrant, wintering in South America.  Summers throughout most of the eastern three-fourths of the United States, and southern Canada.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Eastern Kingbird sightings

Similar Species: Generally distinctive throughout most of the United States.  Very similar to the Loggerhead Kingbird, a rare vagrant from the Caribbean to southern Florida and the Florida Keys.

Conservation Status: There are indications that populations are declining in some areas.  However, they are still found over a wide geographic range, have a high overall population, and are common in some areas.  The IUCN lists the Eastern Kingbird as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Eastern Kingbird

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Eastern Kingbird"

3) Eastern Kingbird

Photo Information: May 26th, 2003 -- Minnehaha County -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Eastern Kingbird photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Eastern Kingbird - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident throughout most of the state.