Spotlight on the Eastern Kingbird
All photos by Larry Reis
Meet the Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)! A notable member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family that is commonly found in Iowa and other eastern regions of the United States. They are known for their larger-than-life personalities and noisy demeanor. These grey-suited specimens are natural predators that can be often found in overgrown fields perched from large fences or wires patiently waiting to pounce on their prey. The Eastern Kingbird’s diet typically consists of small insects such as beetles, wasps, and flies in the summer. In addition, they are also known to occasionally catch small frogs and devour them whole. However, with every season change, the Eastern Kingbird’s diet along with its lifestyle drastically shifts.
During winter months, Kingbirds migrate to South America, occupying large rainforests. Due to the substantial climate differences, the usually independent and territorial species spend more time in flocks collecting wild fruit and berries. This duality of seasonal lifestyles is reflected in many species of birds as they tend to shift their behaviors due to changes in their environment.
Aside from their profound hunting and collecting ability, Eastern Kingbirds are also known for their parenting tactics. Kingbirds tend to spend more time nurturing their young, as they will often devote up to seven weeks to feeding their nestlings. This behavior is uncommon—many species of birds will often stop feeding their young after one to three short weeks. The prolonged dependence of Kingbird hatchlings limits their parents to only having a single brood per nesting season. This unique quality contributes to the Kingbird’s well-documented aggression toward other species of birds that could potentially threaten their young. In short, Kingbirds take parenting very seriously.
The next time you are outside enjoying nature, keep your eyes peeled for the Eastern Kingbird as this species is a true marvel.