Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird by George Payne
© George Payne
Tyrannus tyrannus
Whenever a small bird is seen chasing a large one, the chances are 10 to 1 that the diminutive aggressor is a member of this species. The Eastern Kingbird, or "bee martin" as it is often called, has a special grudge against crows and sometimes will chase one for a mile or more, all the while diving and pecking at the crow's back. Even hawks and vultures are not immune to attack, and heaven help any kind of bird that happens to intrude near a kingbird's nest.
The Eastern Kingbird commonly perches on fences and on telephone wires, where, in typical flycatcher fashion, it placidly awaits the passing of an insect, which, with superb deftness, it captures on the wing. Many kinds of birds have white outer tail feathers, but the Eastern Kingbird is almost unique among passerines in having a broad white band across the end of the tail. Otherwise it is blackish above and white below, with a concealed orange crown patch that is not seen except when the bird is in hand.
The species normally arrives in mid-March and remains until late October, rarely into November, and throughout all but the first few days and the last few weeks of this time it is abundantly and widely distributed in the state. Huge daytime southward migrations have been observed in late August and the initial three weeks of September, after which time the bird becomes increasingly scarce. I observed one such spectacular passage of Eastern Kingbirds on August 30, 1944. At about 4:30 in the afternoon, while standing on the Mississippi River levee a few miles south of the LSU Baton Rouge campus, I began to see kingbirds passing from the north heading south in a continuous stream at a height of a hundred feet or so over the levee. In approximately one hour at least several thousand kingbirds of this species passed overhead. The species winters from southern Mexico, through Central America, to Bolivia. --George H. Lowery, Jr., 1974, Louisiana Birds

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