The Kingbird Convention

Tropical Kingbirds in an avacado tree-
photo by Jack Chamberlain

Yesterday, at lunch, we had the most spectacular show. Swooping down out of the sky came a whole flock of birds we have never seen here before. They had absolutely no fear of the Kiskadees, who screamed their lungs out at them and finally left in disgust.

Instead, these new guys took over the front yard foraging and generally having a great social time of it. There were several varieties, and it took us awhile to realize that they were all traveling together. We began looking at them with the binoculars and then referred to our Stiles and Skutch, Birds of Costa Rica.

It appears the Kingbirds have arrived from the north for the winter. There were Eastern Kingbirds, Western Kingbirds as well as our local Tropical Kingbirds.

They are relatively small (about 6-7 inches) but aggressive bird. In fact Tyrannus, their family name, means tyrant or despot. They take no guff from anyone. Our bird book describes them as “aerial hawking insectivores.” I’ll say.

After I realized what they were I told Alan, “No wonder they weren’t intimidated by those pesky Kiskadees. When you grow up in big families you get pretty tough skin.” Like some Catholic kids I have known, they emerge from a nest of multiple siblings with the older ones stomping on the heads of the younger ones for lack of space.

They were all similar in size; the only thing differentiating them was the color of their shirts and jackets. The eastern variety was wearing a buff colored shirt an outer jacket of deep steel-grey. Eastern Kingbird is a misnomer as it also nests as far west of the Mississippi as Oregon and British Columbia. The Western and Tropical Kingbird are so difficult to tell apart from a distance as to be near impossible for an amateur bird watcher like me. Both had tawny to pale yellow shirts on and their jackets were grayish-brown. According to our book one has a slightly hooked beak, the other straight.

They were simply joyful to have arrived in the tropics. Swooping and doing aerobatics, they romped about for a couple of hours feasting on bugs and flying insects. When they got tired, they literally sat down beside each other on the fence railing and seemed to have a chat, then resumed their festivities.

I think, from what I’ve read, that they will depart soon–if not already– for Columbia, where they winter. At least we didn’t see any today. But, there must be a big party planned in Columbia soon.

And perhaps we will see them when they head north in the spring.

Published by SC Morgan

I grew up in Oregon and learned not everything is black and white. Now I live in the jungles of Costa Rica where the shades of gray cover the full spectrum. I shoot my mouth off on my blog, social media sites, and sometimes I get published. You can find my blog here:

One thought on “The Kingbird Convention

  1. Invasion of the Kingbirds. Interesting. It’s probably just as well they only stopped enroute. Maybe they’ll fit in better in their natural winter habitat. (Most of Colombia is above the equator, isn’t it?)


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