Eastern Kingbirds

This gallery contains 3 photos. There’s just something about the Eastern Kingbird that makes this large tyrant flycatcher stand apart from its (non-blueblooded) cousins. Certainly, its striking dark grey and white plumage makes it a preppy dresser and an easily recognizable bird; you won’t mistake it for any other flycatcher. Or perhaps it’s that perfected nonchalance with the paparazzi that enables photographers to capture closeups of it without the subject suddenly taking to the skies in a flurry of panicked wingbeats. The EAKI below ventured out for a better look at me, and gave me a great opportunity to study its plumage and coloration.

© WHSIM Eastern Kingbird Colony Farm Jul 31 2016.jpg
a banded EAKI at Colony Farm Regional Park (July 31, 2016)
f/8, 1/400, 500mm, ISO 125

It’s called a Kingbird for good reason–it wears a crown! That brilliant crown of feathers–which may range in color from yellow to red to orange–is rarely raised unless this insectivore is intensely curious; agitated; or both. Males and females possess this crown, and look virtually identical, except for size (males are slightly larger, but unless you see them side by side, it’s difficult to determine who uses the little girls’ or little boys’ room). Despite the Eastern prefix, it is quite common to see EAKIs here on the Pacific Coast and throughout much of North America. Ironically, it is more unusual to see the more colorful Western Kingbird here (although a pair of WEKIs nested successfully at Colony Farm Regional Park last year. I was delighted to see the latter, albeit from a great distance).

© WHSIM Profile of Eastern Kingbird Head.jpg
closeup of head. note hooked tip of bill (Boundary Bay Wildlife Area, July 18, 2015)

f/6.3, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 100

EAKIs are migratory birds that show up in Metro Vancouver during the spring and summer months. However, it is not extremely sociable during the breeding season (and is, in fact, quite territorial and has hummingbird tendencies in that respect, often chasing off predators much bigger than itself. Bald Eagles and Crows are not exempt from that regal temperament). It is generally seen hanging out by itself (or perhaps with just another one of its kind) in bushes and shrubs. It prefers wide open spaces within which to hunt. I have yet to hear its birdsong, but I have seen it in flight.

© WHSIM Eastern Kingbird.jpg
my second encounter with an EAKI at Colony Farm Regional Park (June 14, 2015)
f/6.3, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 100

In the fall and winter, the EAKI heads to South America to spend its vacation there, and its diet changes from insects to fruit. It also becomes more gregarious; with parental duties behind it for another year, it is a more social creature, and can be spotted in flocks. Learn more about the Eastern Kingbird by visiting its Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org profile here.

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