At a Glance
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.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Forests and Woodlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Direct Flight, Hovering, Undulating
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Permanent resident throughout its range. Very rarely strays north to Arizona (from western Mexico) and Louisiana.
10 1/2" (27 cm). Large, with bright rusty wings and tail, yellow belly, black and white striped head. Unmistakable in our area (but some other tropical flycatchers are very similar).
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow
Songs and Calls
Loud, piercing kis-ka-dee; also an incessant, shrill chattering.
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Scream
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.
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4, sometimes 2-5. Creamy white, dotted with dark brown and lavender. Details of incubation are not well known.
Apparently both adults help to feed the young in the nest. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Great Kiskadee. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Great Kiskadee
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.