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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 tyrannusEastern Kingbirds are one of the "tyrant flycatchers", found in not only the Eastern US, but across much of the US.  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.


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


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


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.


 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.


The song of an Eastern Kingbird is a complex series of fast buzzy and chattering notes. Calls are very short crisp tzeet notes.


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:

The bright white underparts, white tip of the tail, and dark gray upperparts generally make it distinctive if seen well. In less than ideal viewing conditions, they could perhaps be confused with the following:

Eastern Phoebe 11 - Sayornis phoebe Eastern Wood-pewee - Contopus virens Western Wood-Pewee - Contopus sordidulus Western Kingbird - Tyrannus verticalis
Eastern Phoebe Eastern Wood-pewee Western Wood-pewee Western Kingbird

South Dakota "Hotspot"

Not a difficult species to find from at least May through August. Particularly in the eastern part of the state, driving through areas with pasture and grassland means you'll almost certainly run into an Eastern Kingbird sitting on a barbed wire fence or fence post.  One of the more prevalent and easily found species in South Dakota in summer.

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:

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.

Audio File Credits:

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.

Additional Eastern Kingbird Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Eastern Kingbird 1 - Tyrannus tyrannus
Eastern Kingbird 2 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 3 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 4 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 5 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 6 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 7 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 8 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 9 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 10 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 11 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 12 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 13 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 14 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 15 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 16 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 17 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 18 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 19 - Tyrannus tyrannusEastern Kingbird 20 - Tyrannus tyrannus