Bird GuideTyrant FlycatchersCassin's Kingbird

At a Glance

As suggested by its scientific name vociferans, Cassin's is our noisiest kingbird (except for the very localized Thick-billed). Possibly it has more need for vocal communication because it lives in denser habitat than most. Males have a strident 'dawn song,' a rising berg-berg-berg-BERG, often heard at first light but rarely later in the day, sometimes confused with song of Buff-collared Nightjar. Where present in numbers (as on wintering grounds in Mexico), flocks may gather to roost in large concentrations.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
California, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Hovering

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Often lingers later in fall than other kingbirds. South of United States, may migrate in large flocks.


8-9" (20-23 cm). Like Western Kingbird, but darker gray head and chest contrast more with white chin. Tail has pale tip, but only faint white edges. Bill larger, wings have more obvious scaly pattern.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, Green, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A loud chi-beer! and a rapid chi-beer, ch-beer-beer-beer-r-r.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Scream, Whistle


Semi-open high country, pine-oak mountains, groves. In breeding season favors more wooded habitat than most kingbirds, and ranges to higher elevations, although in places it overlaps with Western Kingbird. Nests in open pine forest, pinyon-juniper woodland, oak woodland, and streamside trees; at lower elevation may nest in groves of eucalyptus. During migration and winter can be found in more open habitats.



3-4, up to 5. Creamy white with brownish mottling, markings often concentrated near large end. Incubation is by female, about 18 days.


Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest after 14-17 days. Usually 1 brood per year, may raise 2 in southern part of range.

Feeding Behavior

From a perch in a tree or on an exposed wire, flies out to capture flying insects in mid-air. May also fly out and hover while picking insects or other arthropods from leaves or from the ground.


Mostly insects, some berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including wasps, beetles, caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, true bugs, flies, and many others, as well as some spiders. Also eats some berries and fruits, more than most flycatchers.


Male has a fast zigzag courtship flight. Members of pair may perch together in nest tree, calling and quivering wings. Adults actively harass larger birds (such as ravens and hawks) in vicinity of nest, but may tolerate other species of kingbirds nearby. Nest site is in a large tree such as sycamore, cottonwood, oak, or pine, placed on a horizontal or near-horizontal branch, often well out from the trunk. Usually 20-50' above the ground but occasionally lower and sometimes much higher. Nest is a bulky cup of twigs, weed stems, rootlets, leaves, feathers, hair, and debris, lined with finer plant fibers and other material.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still widespread and common.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Cassin's Kingbird. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Cassin's Kingbird

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.