Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Byron Greco

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the western kingbird.
The western kingbird, tyrannus verticalis, is aptly named, given its regal appearance and a posture that exudes self confidence in its ability to capture insects while flying, or attack flying insects from perches on fence posts, power lines, tree limbs or any structure that can serve as their hunting “thrones.”
A medium-sized bird common in pastures, urban areas and along forest margins, they are one of the larger flycatchers and, as that name implies, they feed primarily on insects of all kinds. They feed on smaller native fruits as they become available.
Their predominant color is ashy gray extending up the back and over the head and throat, with darker wings, white outer tail feathers visible in flight and a distinctive lemon-colored underside.
Females take responsibility for building nests in tree limbs, shrubs or other suitable sites, even at times on exposed rafters or other similar human-made structures. They may produce two clutches per year. We are near their upper elevational limits for breeding (about 7,000 feet), but their numbers in our area indicate they are successful.
Western kingbirds aggressively protect their territories and nests from
competitors or various predators by fearlessly flying at the invaders or chasing bird predators in flight while making an audible buzz, snapping their stout bills and whirring their wings.
Although most common in the west, the western kingbird is sometimes found in eastern portions of North America and is known to winter in Florida. This flycatcher has adapted well to a human-domesticated landscape and is not considered endangered, although broad-scale use of pesticides is a concern for the long-term sustainability of the species.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on August 25, 2019.