- Common Name:
- Western Kingbird
- Scientific Name:
- Tyrannus verticalis
- Length 8.1 to 9.6 inches
- IUCN Red List Status:
- Least concern
- Current Population Trend:
The western is the “default” breeding yellow-bellied kingbird across vast areas of the west (especially arid lowlands); but its distribution and habitat overlap with other yellow-bellied kingbirds (the Cassin’s, thick-billed, tropical, and Couch’s) as well as with the eastern and scissor-tailed flycatchers. From exposed perches on trees, shrubs, or wires, it chases and captures flying insects; it will also sally to vegetation or the ground and will take fruit during fall and winter. Monotypic. Length 8.1–9.6".
Adult: pale gray head; darker mask; concealed orange-red central crown patch. Pale grayish olive back. Plain brownish black wings, contrasting paler back. Square-tipped, black tail; white outer webs of outer pair of feathers. White throat subtly blends to pearly gray chest and yellow belly. Relatively small, black bill. Juvenile: duller, paler.
Typical tail pattern unmistakable, but individuals with worn or missing white outer tail feathers might be mistaken for other yellow-bellied species. The Cassin’s is overall much darker on chest, upperparts; has contrasting white chin, paler wings, gray tail tip. The tropical and Couch’s have heavier bills; olive-yellow chests; and dark brown, deeply notched tails. The Cassin’s, tropical, and Couch’s also have pale-edged upperwing coverts with a more scalloped appearance. The thick-billed has much heavier bill, darker upperparts, yellow central crown patch, paler underparts. (Juvenile’s underparts yellower, more western-like.) Superficially similar to juvenile or immature scissor-tailed, immature white-bellied kingbirds with tinge of yellow on underparts, Myiarchus, or say’s phoebe; but key field marks should still be apparent.
Call: single or repeated sharp kip notes; also a staccato trill. Dawn song: a repeated series of kip notes and long trills.
Status and Distribution
Common. Breeding: open country with scattered trees or shrubs; will nest on human-made structures (e.g., utility poles). Migration: mid-March–early June; late July–mid-September; scarce after early October, stragglers into November. Winter: central-western Mexico to Costa Rica; also southern Florida. Vagrant: in summer, casual/accidental to Alaska, central and northern Canada; in winter, rare/casual on Pacific coast to central California, on Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and to Panama, West Indies, and Bermuda.
Stable or increasing.