Photo: John McKean/Vireo

Great Kiskadee

Pitangus sulphuratus

Named for its ringing kis-ka-dee calls, this bird seems to break the rules for the flycatcher family. Besides flying out to catch insects in the air, it also grabs lizards from tree trunks, eats many berries, and even plunges into ponds to catch small fish. Its bright pattern is unique in North America, but in the tropics there are several other flycatchers that look almost identical. The Great Kiskadee is found from Texas to Argentina, and is also very common in Bermuda, where it was introduced in the 1950s.
Conservation status Numbers stable or increasing in Texas. May be increasing and spreading in tropics as rain forest is cut, as it does well around clearings, edges, and second growth.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Streamside thickets, groves, orchards, towns. In its limited Texas range, found most commonly in open woodlands near water, but may occur in any habitat with good-sized trees. In the tropics, occurs widely in many semi-open habitats, usually avoiding dense unbroken forest.
Named for its ringing kis-ka-dee calls, this bird seems to break the rules for the flycatcher family. Besides flying out to catch insects in the air, it also grabs lizards from tree trunks, eats many berries, and even plunges into ponds to catch small fish. Its bright pattern is unique in North America, but in the tropics there are several other flycatchers that look almost identical. The Great Kiskadee is found from Texas to Argentina, and is also very common in Bermuda, where it was introduced in the 1950s.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages in various ways. Often flies out from a perch to catch flying insects in the air. Will perch on branch low over water and then plunge into water for fish, tadpoles, or insects. Often hops about in trees and shrubs to eat berries.


Eggs

4, sometimes 2-5. Creamy white, dotted with dark brown and lavender. Details of incubation are not well known. Young: Apparently both adults help to feed the young in the nest. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.


Young

Apparently both adults help to feed the young in the nest. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.

Diet

Omnivorous. Feeds mostly on large insects, such as beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, bees, and moths; but also eats lizards, mice, baby birds, frogs, tadpoles, and small fish. Also eats many berries and small fruits, and some seeds.


Nesting

Breeding behavior is not well known. Both members of pair actively defend nesting territory against intruders of their own species, and are quick to mob any predators that come close. Nest site is usually among dense branches of a tree or large shrub, 6-50' above the ground, usually 10-20' up. Nest is a large bulky structure, more or less round, with the entrance on the side. Nest is built of grass, weeds, strips of bark, Spanish moss, and other plant fibers, and lined with fine grasses.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Permanent resident throughout its range. Very rarely strays north to Arizona (from western Mexico) and Louisiana.

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Migration

Permanent resident throughout its range. Very rarely strays north to Arizona (from western Mexico) and Louisiana.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Loud, piercing kis-ka-dee; also an incessant, shrill chattering.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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