Friday, June 22, 2012

Tyrannus! Tyrannus!

Just when I was beginning to think that the nesting season was over, Eliot spotted a kingbird nest high in a tree hanging out over the water at Sequoyah Hills Park. (The nest is hidden under the leaves to the left of the bird.)

The Eastern kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus, meaning tyrant! tyrant! (the exclamation points are mine, but oh so apropos.) is an intense flycatcher that eats a range of flying insects especially bees. They aggressively defend their turf, going after much larger birds, even driving bully-boy blue jays to hide in the bushes, partly we assume, because the highly territorial parents feed their young for an extraordinarily long period: seven weeks!

In the winter, they travel much farther south than most neotropical migrants, going all the way to southern Argentina if need be. There they change their lifestyle, mellow out, travel in flocks like vacationing Lutherans and eat berries.

I'm not sure why birding superstar Kenn Kaufman's nickname is kingbird... perhaps it's because he was so tenacious on the highway in pursuit of his Big Year in 1973, or maybe because if he could eat dry cat food (Little Friskies liver-flavored, as I recall), he must surely have eaten bees. 

Kenn, any input on the subject? Or are you sick of cat food questions?

To ID a kingbird: look for gray head, back and tail; white throat, undercarriage, tip of tail. Intense in-your-face, steely-eyed, bee-eating demeanor.

Here's a video by George Jameson. 


Dorothy said...

The Kingbird is beautiful and we are lucky to have some nesting near our yard. This is the first year I've seen this bird in our yard. I enjoyed seeing the video!

Linda said...

A great video of such an alert and beautiful bird! Thank you so much for sharing. Greetings from Montreal, Canada.

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Kingbirds may be gray and white but they are fun to watch. So into the moment.

Hello Canada!! I hope your weather is milder than here.