Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis
A Western Kingbird specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (8 inches) flycatcher, the Western Kingbird is most easily identified by its gray head, olive-green back, yellow belly, and black tail with faint white bands on the edges. This species is most easily distinguished from the related Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) by that species’ darker body and paler breast. Male and female Western Kingbirds are similar to one another in all seasons. The Western Kingbird breeds across much of the western United States, western Mexico, and southwestern Canada, occurring east to the central Great Plains. This species spends the winter in southern Florida, southwestern Mexico, and the Pacific coast of Central America. During migration, individuals may stray far to the north and east of this species’ breeding range, occasionally turning up as far east as the Atlantic seaboard. Western Kingbirds breed in a variety of open and semi-open habitats, including scrubland, fields, and prairie. During the winter, this species utilizes similar habitats in the tropics as it did in temperate regions during the summer. Like most of their relatives, Western Kingbirds primarily eat small flying insects. In appropriate habitat, Western 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 black tail and yellow breast as they do so. Western Kingbirds are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Accidental visitor from the West, seen several times in September and May. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

Date:  5/20/1873
Collected By:  Dr Hayden/JH Batty
Locality:  Clear Creek, CO
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  66130

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Tyrannus verticalis

Tyrannus verticalis

Tyrannus verticalis