Skip to content

The Eastern Kingbird – Full of Surprises

January 10, 2013

I have been thinking about Eastern Kingbirds lately. True, they won’t be returning here until mid to late May, but I have a special place in my heart for this little “tyrant”. They are far from colourful and may not attract your attention at first glance.  But they are definitely a bird with character.  Their scientific name is Tyrannus tyrannus – very loosely translated – the tyrant. Eastern Kingbirds harass and mob predators much bigger than themselves. An individual or the nesting pair will mob ravens, crows, cooper’s hawks, kestrels and other aerial nest predators – and even lesser dangers such as great blue herons and osprey. But not all kingirds hide their nests well. You would think that a bird that puts such a great deal of energy – and puts themselves at risk – to defend their eggs and young would hide their nest well too. But not the Eastern Kingbird. Some birds do hide their nests very well, but others do not hide their nests at all.  Why? Well, answering that question opened a door for me. A door into research – into the “life of the mind’.

Eastern Kingbird

An Eastern Kingbird “on patrol”.

When I had decided to come to British Columbia to start a Ph.D., a professor remarked “Congratulations, you are entering the life of the mind. This may be the only time in your life when you can concentrate solely on following your curiosity .” He was right. That decision changed my life.  And the Eastern Kingbird opened that door for me.

Eastern Kingbird on the Nest

Eastern Kingbird on the nest. All you can see is the eye peeking out.

Eastern Kingbird and Young on the Nest

An Eastern Kingbird and young on the nest.

Two Eastern Kingbird Fledglings

Two Eastern Kingbird Fledglings

I spent six glorious summers at the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area studying Eastern Kingbirds – paddling canoes, biking on the dikes, crawling through and up into hawthorne trees (very memorable), designing experiments (non-invasive behavioural experiments) and watching kingbirds for hours. And the kingbirds taught me a lot in that time. Not to mention the great friends I made in that time and all of our adventures.

I will share some of my research and what I found out about kingbirds and nest predators in future posts, but I wanted to introduce this bird and hopefully pique your curiosity.  Eastern Kingbirds are full of surprises, as are most birds if you have the time to look.

In the meantime, I hope that they are finding a lot of insects and sunshine “down south”.  I wish them a safe journey home this spring.

All photos and writing in this blog copyright J.A. Siderius, 2013.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: