19 November, 2010

Belize Bird of the Week #12 –Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus: Just Passing Through

The sea grape trees we can see so well from our veranda always seem to be a magnet for bird activity and this past October was no exception. This time of year, however, the birds are attracted to the insects that in turn are attracted to the sea grape flowers. The acrobatics of the Eastern Kingbirds were a joy to watch as they hawked insects in the sea grapes trees. The views were often obscured by the large leaves, but I did get a few shots of the activity.  Below is a series showing some of the moves.  Keep an eye on the bird in the background, too.
Kingbirds aren’t flashy, colorful birds; they are essentially monochromatic with white below, dark grey to black above. White wing bars and a white terminal tail band are about as fancy as they get. Though they aren’t colorful, they are handsome birds.

They reportedly do have smallish crests that show a little red or orange, especially the males, but none of them displayed crests during the hours of time we spent watching them. That may be because they are just passing through on their way from their breeding grounds in North America to their long winter vacation in South America. Their scientific name (Tyrannus tyrannus) denotes their fierce, aggressive behavior that is conspicuous during breeding and rearing. They tend to be isolated as mating pairs; and some pairs are lucky enough to have a helper. Other than that, they don’t tolerate others of the same species or even other species.
When they are migrating they don’t have to attract mates or defend territory and once they arrive in South America they tend to travel and forage in flocks. Another difference in their holiday behavior is that their diet switches from primarily insects to fruit. Just like people, they seem to have a more relaxed, gregarious take on life when on holiday and go for the sweets instead of the protein. :-)


  1. Great captures Wilma.
    Yea, they sound just like people, who chill out on their holidays lol

  2. My behaviour changes when I'm in tropical countries too, not so much beer and more cocktails with little umbrellas in them........

  3. Beautiful pictures Wilma. I love the two first ones which are very dynamic!!

  4. Keith -- thanks. I am on a mini-holiday right now and just ate chocolate croisant for breakfast instead of my usual yogurt. :-)

    Stu -- I didn't notice any little umbrellas. Maybe they were saving that refreshment for the heat of the day...

    Chris -- thanks! They were so quick and unpredictable it is wonder I got any decent shots at all.

    cheers all,

  5. Great shots of this bird Wilma.
    I bet they sun themselves on the beach as well.{:)

  6. I have read about the personality change of the EAKI from breeding range to winter range,but it's great to have a first hand good photos.

  7. Roy -- thanks. I can just picture them in in little lounge chairs. That is probably when they enjoy the drinks with umbrellas that Stu mentioned. ;-)

    Chris -- the pressure is off when the kids are grown and food is abundant. There must be some selective advantage to flocking when not breeding, aside from sharing umbrella drinks, that is...

  8. These are wonderfully fantastic images i ever seen. Thank you so.. much for posting these really awesome. I simply love.

    Belize Hotel


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