Sunday, February 25, 2007

Western Kingbird

Western kingbird Tyrannus verticalis

Previously The Western Kingbird was called "The Arkansas Kingbird."

The adult Western Kingbird stands about seven inches tall as an adult and has the largest population of North American yellow-bellied kingbirds. This bird has a big pale gray head and a large bill. Their tail is not forked and the outside tail feathers are ivory. Around its eye is a dark colored eyeliner, a yellow breast and its throat and upper part of its chest are dull colored. On the top of its head is a small red mark and a black tail. Both the male and female Western Kingfisher have similar colored plumage while the young birds have duller colored plumage.

The bird prefers open habitats of open country around ranches, farms, areas next to flowing water, grasslands, desert scrub, pastures, and savannahs always with trees, or shrubs. If nature doesn't provide their preferred habitat they will inhabit tall man-made structures in villages. Bird watchers often see this bird sitting on fences and posts, tall weeds, bare branches of a tree or low wires from which they fly out to capture insects. From these different perches the bird flies out or drops to the ground to catch insect prey. Almost half of the nests were on man-made structures, especially telephone poles. In the city of Houston they nest at or near electric power substations. Because Western Kingbirds often nest near and forage in cultivated lands, pesticides becomes a possible threat to their lives.

Western Kingbirds nest throughout all parts of Texas except in the far eastern portion of the state. When the Western Kingbird stays in Oklahoma it is in the summer months only. It spends most of the winter months in Florida and Mexico to Southwest Costa Rica. The Western Kingbird breeds in Western North America from Canada south to Mexico.

The first Western Kingbirds in fall normally appear in September or October and the last ones are seen in November and some in December Courting- The male when courting darts erratically into the air wavering, calling and beating its feathers.

The birds build their open cup shaped nest in the middle of a bush or cottonwood, oak, sycamore or willow tree about five to forty feet above the ground on a horizontal branch. Also they will build a nest of weeds, twigs and string on a utility pole, water tower or barn and line the nest with wool, cotton, hair or fine feathers.

After mating the female lays between three and five creamy white , pinkish, marked with browns, gray, lavender spots, colored eggs between the months of April and July about one inch long. She sits on the eggs for about three weeks and the young birds fledge about three weeks later. Sometimes more than one pair of birds will build their nest in the same location making them somewhat social. When birds like a hawk, crow or raven flies to close to the nest the Western Kingbird will attack these larger birds, especially hawks.

Their diet consists mainly of insects and supplemented with fruit like berries. Often they will sway forward or backward on a wire or tall weed to catch insects in midair. The voice of the Western Kingbird is a sharp call.

Because of deforestation the bird received benefits like more insects available making the bird's clutches bigger and the young birds feed more often and grow bigger, quicker. . The Western Kingbird is similar to Cassin's Kingbird, Tropical and Couch's Kingbirds.

Before man migrated to Texas the Western Kingbird's range was limited before trees and bushes were planted. Earlier the bird only inhabited the western part of the state's Panhandle, southern plains, and the mountains.

Then man planted trees on the plains, erected power lines, telephone poles, and other structures causing the Western Kingbird's population to increase throughout most of its Texas range,