Photo: Geoff Malosh/Vireo

Gray Kingbird

Tyrannus dominicensis

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.
Conservation status Surveys show declines in parts of Florida range, but still locally very common there and in Caribbean.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat 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.
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.
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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.


Eggs

3-4, rarely 5. Pale pink to buff, blotched with brown, lavender, and gray. Details of incubation not well known. Young: Evidently both parents bring food for the nestlings. Development of young and age at first flight are not well known.


Young

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

Diet

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

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.

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

Migration

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.

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Migration

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.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A shrill, buzzy pe-cheer-y.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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