Colorful Kingbird of May

This elegant bird began hanging around the backyard in the middle of May.  She surveyed the area from our agave stalk, drank at the fountain, and perched in the Palo Verde tree out back.  Never having noticed this bird before I had to check my field guides. We had a Western Kingbird!

An acrobatic flier, the Western Kingbird flies out from her perch, grabs one winged insect in her beak, tracks down another and snags it too, and then ferries the entire snack back to her perch where she beats and shakes the meal into submission before swallowing.  She can also hover near a shrub and glean insects from the leaves and branches.

Western Kingbird is part of the tyrant flycatcher family, so called because of her aggressive defense of her nesting territory.  She makes no bones about scolding and chasing any intruder, even the much larger red-tailed hawk or the much more lethal American Kestrel.

Western Kingbird likes a habitat with tall perches and open areas where she can hunt.  We must have had a nice hatch of tasty tidbits that attracted her to our yard.  Or maybe it was the water.  Maybe the two together made our yard a stop-over on her way north.  She only stayed around for about a week.

Found across the western states and into southern Canada, the Western Kingbird migrates south to Mexico at the end of summer, stays there for a molt, then flies the remainder of the way to Central America for winter.  There is a small population that just goes to Florida for winter. 

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