Eastern Kingbird (Photo: Creative Commons)

Eastern Kingbird

Black above, white below, with a heavy black bill, the Eastern Kingbird looks a bit mean. As its Latin name suggests, it is a tyrant of tyrants, often attacking much larger birds that invade its territory. The obvious white tip to the black tail is a field mark unique to this flycatcher species.

Listen for

Eastern Kingbirds are loud birds (often heard before seen) with an unmusical, zapping call: ptzeent!, often given in a rapid series.


From the Great Plains westward, you can see both Eastern and Western Kingbirds in the same habitats. They are easy to tell apart—Westerns are light gray above and yellow below.

Find it

Common in summer in a variety of open and semi-open habitats across the continent, Eastern Kingbirds perch in obvious places—on roadside wires, fences, and treetops-and make aerial forays to catch insects.


If you get a really good look, you’ll see a narrow stripe of red feathers on the crown of an Eastern Kingbird. This rarely seen plumage is displayed by the male during spring courtship.

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