Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Eastern KingbirdEastern Kingbird distribution map


Population Information

The Federal BBS information can be obtained at http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/bbs.html by clicking on Trend Estimates and selecting the species in question. All estimates are for time period (1966-2005).

Life History

Habitat Selection

Eastern Kingbirds are habitat generalists and will nest in most open, shrubby habitats in both uplands and wetlands. Nests are known to be built on stumps and in oak, apple, jack pine, black ash, alder and willow trees/shrubs (Robbins 1991). Eastern Kingbirds nest in shrubs and trees and therefore require that at least some woody plants are present for nesting.

Habitat Availability

Eastern Kingbirds are known to nest in every Wisconsin county and have been recorded on every Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) transect in the state (Robbins 1991). This indicates that Eastern Kingbirds habitat if not abundant, is certainly widespread.

Population Concerns

BBS data indicate marked declines in Eastern Kingbird populations. Factors contributing to this decline must also be widespread. If the species’ decline is related to nesting habitat in North America, the loss of fallow fields, grasslands and other open areas to succession and the loss of natural disturbance regimes are likely contributing to the species’ decline. Losses of pasture, hay and grass-based agriculture, shelterbelts, small farms and forest succession have probably all contributed to declines (Murphy 1996). Researchers have also noted hatching failures in regions and habitats with heavy pesticide usage (Murphy 1996) which may be limiting populations.

Recommended Management

Any management designed to maintain open areas with a shrub and tree component will benefit Eastern Kingbirds. These activities include but are not limited to: prescribed burning, mowing, and herbiciding. Efforts to restore grasslands, savannas and barrens will most certainly benefit this species. In addition, small dairy or organic farming operations that maintain patches of shrubs or trees next to crop fields might also be beneficial.

Research Needs

Determine whether species that commonly nest in and around agricultural fields are impacted by pesticides.

Information Sources


Contact Information

Kreitinger, K., Y. Steele and A. Paulios, editors. 2013.
The Wisconsin All-bird Conservation Plan, Version 2.0. Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, WI.

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