|Western Kingbird. Hines, Oregon. May 24, 2009. Greg Gillson.|
The Western Kingbird is the summertime kingbird likely most familiar to birders in the western United States and the extreme southern parts of western Canada, wintering in Middle America. It is found in open rural agricultural areas and similar grassland habitats with scattered trees.
I found a tree with 4 migrant Western Kingbirds, here in San Diego County, on the last day of September, last year. That was immediately after moving here, and that was the first and last for me (in the county), so far. I expect them to arrive in April and stay common into August.
The main identifying marks of this large flycatcher are the pale gray head, breast, and back, the pale yellow belly, and the black tail with obvious white outer tail feathers. The common calls of Western Kingbird are a series of harsh "kit" notes often running into a chatter.
|Cassin's Kingbird. Dairy Mart Pond, San Ysidro, California. March 2, 2014. Greg Gillson|
Cassin's Kingbirds have expanded their range in southern California in recent decades. In the early 1980's I recorded them only twice in 5 years of living in Ventura County. Now, here in San Diego County, they are common everyday birds year-round in tall trees, especially eucalyptus.
Compared with Western Kingbird, Cassin's has a darker gray head and chest, and clearly defined white throat. The blackish tail often shows a pale tip, suggesting the white tail tip on the Eastern Kingbird, but not nearly as broad, white, or obvious. The call of Cassin's Kingbird is a loud, hoarse "chi-KEER."
|Tropical Kingbird. Dairy Mart Pond, San Ysidro, California. March 2, 2014. Greg Gillson|
Such was the case 3 weeks ago with the bird above. I was taking photos of the Cassin's Kingbird (two photos above) when I noted something different. This new bird (above) had a browner tail--not black--and it was notched, not straight across the end. Looking more closely I noted a longer, heavier bill. The yellow breast comes all the way up to the white throat. There is no gray across the breast, though the yellow does darken to greenish-yellow. The back is also greenish, not gray as the other two kingbirds we discussed. I've never heard the calls of Tropical Kingbird on their northward journeys. Evidently, though, they have a high-pitched chittering, very different from the calls of the other two kingbirds.
Hurray! Another new bird for the county. This was County Bird #225 and County Year Bird #182.