At a Glance

Widespread in the Caribbean, this big flycatcher enters our area mainly in Florida. There it is numerous in summer, mainly along the coasts, less common toward the north. The Gray Kingbird is often conspicuous, perching in the open and giving loud, arresting calls. Its original nesting habitat along the coast has been partly taken over by development, but the bird has adapted, and it now nests in residential areas, farmland, and even cities.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Forests and Woodlands, Saltwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Florida, Mid Atlantic, Southeast
Direct Flight, Hovering

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Only a summer resident in southeastern United States (with a few winter records for Florida). Rarely wanders far to the north of breeding range, mainly in fall.


9" (23 cm). Whitish below, gray above, with darker mask. Tail notched at tip, with no white band. Heavy black bill.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Gray, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Forked, Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A shrill, buzzy pe-cheer-y.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Hi, Scream, Trill, Whistle


Roadsides, mangroves, edges. In Florida, breeds in a variety of habitats, from undisturbed mangrove swamps to centers of cities near coast, also in farmland and vacant lots. In the Caribbean, found in a similarly wide range of wooded and open habitats.



3-4, rarely 5. Pale pink to buff, blotched with brown, lavender, and gray. Details of incubation not well known.


Evidently both parents bring food for the nestlings. Development of young and age at first flight are not well known.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from an exposed perch and then flying out to catch insects in the air. May also hover and take insects or other items from foliage, and sometimes catches prey just above (or at) the surface of the water.


Mostly insects, some berries. Feeds on a variety of insects, including beetles, wasps, bees, and many others, with some as large as dragonflies. Also eats small lizards, and has been seen catching hummingbirds in the Caribbean. At some seasons, berries and small fruits may be more than one-fifth of the diet.


Nesting behavior is poorly known. Adults are very active and bold in defense of their nest, even attacking humans who come too close. Nest site is often among branches of coastal mangroves, 4-12' above the water or ground. Also nests in taller trees inland, such as pines or oaks, up to 40' above the ground. In cities, may build nest where wires cross utility poles. Nest is a cup of twigs, grasses, rootlets, lined with finer grass; usually built loosely, so that eggs may even be visible from below.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Surveys show declines in parts of Florida range, but still locally very common there and in Caribbean.

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 Gray Kingbird. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Gray 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.

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