Bird GuideTyrant FlycatchersThick-billed Kingbird
Thick-billed Kingbird
Tyrannus crassirostris

At a Glance

Brash and noisy, the Thick-billed Kingbird perches high in streamside sycamores, fluttering its wings as it gives voice to incredibly loud metallic calls that echo through the canyons. This big tropical flycatcher is a recent immigrant to our area, first found in 1958 in Guadalupe Canyon, on the Arizona-New Mexico border. It has since become more widespread as a summering bird north of Mexico, but it is still found mainly at a few Arizona sites.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Southwest
Direct Flight, Hovering

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Summer resident in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, arriving in May and departing in September. Strays sometimes wander to lower Colorado River or southern coastal California in fall and winter.


9" (23 cm). Sooty above with blacker head, whitish below with pale yellow wash on belly. Very heavy black bill.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Loud kiterreer and high-pitched bur-ree.
Call Pattern
Falling, Rising
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Scream, Whistle


Sycamores and cottonwoods along streams. In the United States, breeds along permanent streams in the lowlands and lower canyons; mostly where big sycamores and cottonwoods grow, occasionally in pure stands of cottonwoods. In Mexico, widespread in dry woods and semi-open country in lowlands.



3-4. Whitish, blotched with brown. Details of incubation not well known.


Both parents bring food for young in nest. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch and flying out to capture insects, returning to perch to eat them. Captures most prey in mid-air, often in long, swooping flights. Usually hunts from high perches near tops of trees, but will forage low, especially in cool weather.


Insects. Diet is not well known, but probably is mostly or entirely insects. Large bill size suggests the ability to feed on very large insects; has been seen eating large beetles, cicadas, and others.


Breeding behavior is not well known. Aggressive in defense of nesting territory, attacking larger birds that come near nest. Both members of mated pairs often perch close together, quivering wings and calling loudly. Nest site is usually high in tall tree (in Arizona, typically in sycamore, sometimes in cottonwood), 50-80' above the ground. Nest is a large but loosely built open cup of twigs, grasses, weeds, leaves, plant down. Nest has a ragged look, with twigs sticking out in all directions; from below, eggs may be visible through bottom of nest.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Has gradually increased in limited range in United States since first arrival in 1950s. Status of Mexican populations not well known.

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 Thick-billed Kingbird. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Thick-billed 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.