Bird of the Week: Western Kingbird

Don’t be fooled by its vibrant yellow belly– the Western Kingbird is no coward. A pugnacious, “take-charge” member of the aptly-named Tyrannidae family, the Western Kingbird is not afraid to draw attention to itself, chasing off intruders–even large predators like Red-tailed Hawks– with raucous call, snapping bill, and whirring wings. Make a Kingbird mad enough and you might even get to see its “crown,” a usually-hidden patch of red feathers on its forehead similar to a Ruby-crowned Kinglet’s. The Western Kingbird’s throne is its high perch, natural or man-made, from which it surveys its territory, occasionally sallying out to snap insects from the air in a virtuosic display of aerobatics. Kingbirds are diet and habitat generalists, allowing them to adapt and even flourish in the face of human encroachment. Ball fields, prairies, vacant lots, and cropland are equally good hunting grounds for these birds, which can now be found as far east as Wisconsin and Louisiana. In summer, any open area in central Texas is likely to play host to these charismatic and conspicuous birds.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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