|Conservation status||Has expanded breeding range eastward and increased in numbers during 20th century. Population now stable or possibly still increasing.|
|Habitat||Semi-open country, farms, roadsides, towns. Breeds in open terrain with trees to provide nest sites; may be in farmland, groves or streamside trees in prairie country, semi-desert scrub; avoids true desert. Also in towns; where trees are lacking, will nest on artificial structures. Where ranges overlap, typically in more open country than Eastern or Cassin's kingbirds.|
Forages mostly by watching from a perch and then flying out to snap up insects in its bill. May perch low or high; may catch insects in mid-air, or may hover and then drop to the ground to catch them.
3-5, rarely up to 7. Whitish, heavily blotched with brown, lavender, and black. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 18-19 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 16-17 days after hatching.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 16-17 days after hatching.
Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially wasps, bees, beetles, and grasshoppers, also flies, true bugs, caterpillars, moths, and many others. Also eats some spiders and millipedes, and regularly eats small numbers of berries and fruits.
Male defends territory by singing, giving "dawn song" incessantly at first hint of daylight. In courtship, male performs flight display, rapidly flying up and down in vertical zigzags, giving rapid sputtering calls. Nest site varies, usually in tree in vertical fork or on horizontal limb, 15-30' above ground. Also often nests on utility poles, sometimes on building ledges or towers, in empty sheds, on cliff ledges, or in abandoned nests of other birds. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is a cup of grass, weeds, twigs, plant fibers, lined with finer materials such as feathers, plant down, animal hair, bits of paper.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Often migrates in small flocks. A few stray eastward every fall, appearing along Atlantic Coast, some of these birds moving south to winter in 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 loud, sharp kit. Various chattering notes.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Western Kingbird
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Western 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.