Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus
Eastern Kingbird specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (8 inches) flycatcher, the Eastern Kingbird is most easily identified by its dark gray head and back, pale breast, and black tail with conspicuous white band on tip. This species is most easily distinguished from the related Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) by that species’ paler body and bright yellow belly. Male and female Eastern Kingbirds are similar to one another in all seasons. The Eastern Kingbird breeds across much of the United States and south-central Canada. This species is primarily absent as a breeding bird from the far north, the desert southwest, and the U.S. Pacific coast. Eastern Kingbirds spend the winter in the South American Amazon. Eastern Kingbirds breed in a variety of open and semi-open habitats, including forest edges, fields, and wetlands. During the winter, this species may be found in swampy or open habitats in humid tropical forests. Like most of their relatives, Eastern Kingbirds primarily eat small flying insects during the summer, but these birds also eat fruits and berries during the winter. In appropriate habitat, Eastern Kingbirds are most easily seen scanning the surrounding area from a prominent perch. These birds hunt by flying out from perches to capture prey in the air, displaying their characteristic white-on-black tail pattern as they do so. Eastern Kingbirds are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common breeding and transient bird, arriving in this region in April and May, nesting from early May to late August, and migrating south from late July to mid-September. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC57035 Tyrannus tyrannus (Eastern Kingbird)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31347 Tyrannus tyrannus (Eastern Kingbird)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31348 Tyrannus tyrannus (Eastern Kingbird)