|Conservation status||Probably increased in some areas as planting of shelterbelt trees provided more nesting sites. Has declined in some areas in recent decades.|
|Habitat||Semi-open country, ranches, farms, roadsides. Favors grassland or farmland with scattered trees or isolated groves. May breed in open grassland with no trees in some areas, where utility poles provide artificial nest sites. Winters in open or semi-open country in the tropics.|
Forages mostly by watching from a perch, flying out to catch insects, then returning to perch to eat them. May take insects in mid-air, or may pick them from foliage or from ground while hovering; very agile and maneuverable in flight.
3-5, rarely 6. Whitish, blotched with brown and gray. Incubation is by female, about 14-17 days. Young: Both parents bring food to nestlings. Young leave the nest about 14-16 days after hatching.
Both parents bring food to nestlings. Young leave the nest about 14-16 days after hatching.
Insects. Feeds mostly on insects, including many grasshoppers, also beetles, wasps, bees, true bugs, flies, caterpillars, moths, and others. Also eats some spiders. Small numbers of berries and wild fruits are eaten occasionally.
Male has spectacular courtship display, sharply rising and descending in flight, its long tail streamers opening and closing, while the bird gives sharp calls. May perform backwards somersaults in the air. Nest site is usually in a tree or tall shrub, placed on a horizontal limb or less often in a vertical fork, usually 7-30' above the ground. Often also places nest where wires attach to utility poles, or on other artificial sites such as towers or bridge supports. Nest (built by female) is a ragged open cup of twigs, weeds, rootlets, and grass, lined with finer materials such as hair and plant down.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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On the breeding grounds, often arrives early (by early April) and stays late (to October, even a few through November). Strays wander to either coast, and small numbers winter regularly in southern Florida.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA harsh kee-kee-kee-kee. Also chattering notes like those of Eastern Kingbird.
Learn more about this sound collection.