Birds - Kingbird
( Originally Published 1904 )
(Tyrannus tyrannus) Flycatcher family
Called also: TYRANT FLYCATCHER; BEE MARTIN
Length—8 inches. About two inches shorter than the robin.
Male—Ashy black above ; white, shaded with ash-color, beneath. A concealed crest of orange-red on crown. Tail black, terminating with a white band conspicuous in flight. Wing feathers edged with white. Feet and bill black.
Female—Similar to the male, but lacking the crown. Range—United States to the Rocky Mountains. British provinces to Central and South America.
Migrations—May. September. Common summer resident.
If the pugnacious propensity of the kingbird is the occasion of its royal name, he cannot he said to deserve it from any fine or noble qualities he possesses. He is a born fighter from the very love of it, without provocation, rhyme, or reason. One can but watch with a degree of admiration his bold sallies on the big, black crow or the marauding hawk, but when he bullies the small inoffensive birds in wanton attacks for sheer amusement, the charge is less entertaining. Occasionally, when the little victim shows pluck and faces his assailant, the kingbird will literally turn tail and show the white feather. His method of attack is always when a bird is in flight; then he swoops down from the telegraph pole or high point of vantage, and strikes on the head or back of the neck, darting back like a flash to the exact spot from which he started. By these tactics he avoids a return blow and retreats from danger. He never makes a fair hand-to-hand fight, or whatever is equivalent in bird warfare. It is a satisfaction to record that, he does not attempt to give battle to the catbird, but whenever in view makes a grand detour to give him a wide berth.
The kingbird feeds on beetles, canker-worms, and winged insects, with an occasional dessert of berries. He is popularly supposed to prefer the honeybee as his favorite tidbit, but the weight of opinion is adverse to the charge of his depopulating the beehive, even though he owes his appellation bee martin to this tradition. One or two ornithologists declare that he selects only the drones for his diet; which would give him credit for marvellous sight in his rapid motion through the air. The kingbird is preeminently a bird of the garden and orchard. The nest is open, though deep, and not carefully concealed. Eggs are nearly round, bluish white spotted with brown and lilac. With truly royal exclusiveness, the tyrant favors no community of interest, but sits in regal state on a conspicuous throne, and takes his grand flights alone or with his queen, but never with a flock of his kind.