South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

Length: 8.5 inches Wingspan: 15-16 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Bright yellow underparts, grayish upperparts, black tail with white outer edges.

Western Kingbird - Tyrannus verticalis With similar mannerisms to the Eastern Kingbird, the Western Kingbird can often be found perched on roadsides fences as it watches for insects.  Very aggressive, they are fierce defenders of their nests and young, often driving away birds as large as hawks. Western Kingbirds have adapted extremely well to the presence of humans, and can sometimes be found nesting well within urban areas.  They are more common in the western part of South Dakota, but they can be found statewide.

Habitat: Prefers semi-open terrain with scattered patches of trees for nesting. Can sometimes be found within urban areas, and will nest on man-made structures when trees are absent.

Diet: Primarily insects.  Also sometimes takes fruits and berries.

Behavior: Usually feeds by observing from a perch, and flying out to catch insects in mid-air, in typical flycatcher fashion.  They also are very capable of hovering, dropping down to catch prey when spotted.

Nesting: June and July

Song: Short, relatively quiet kek call.  Also a brash, chattering staccato call. 

Migration: Summers in the western 1/2 of the United States.  Primarily winters in central and South America, although some do over-winter in Florida and other strays are occasionally found along  the East Coast in the Fall.

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

Similar Species: In South Dakota, similar to Cassin's Kingbird (found only in the western part of the state).  Also similar to Couch's Kingbird (not found near South Dakota).

Conservation Status: Has expanded its range to the east during the last several decades.  Common and widespread, and possibly still expanding its range.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Western Kingbird

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Western Kingbird

3) Western Kingbird

Photo Information: July 17th, 2004 -- Richland Wildlife Area -- Terry Sohl

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


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Western Kingbird - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident throughout most of the state.  Somewhat less common in the southeastern part of the state.