Conservation status Has gradually increased in limited range in United States since first arrival in 1950s. Status of Mexican populations not well known.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat 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.
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.

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.


3-4. Whitish, blotched with brown. Details of incubation not well known. Young: Both parents bring food for young in nest. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.


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


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.

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

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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.

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Loud kiterreer and high-pitched bur-ree.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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