Game of Thrones, backyard edition

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A couple of Eastern Kingbirds arrived in the bird kingdom of Pond Field yesterday.

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They don’t hold still for long. Distinctive flight and buzzy song.

Behavior: Eastern Kingbirds often perch in the open atop trees or along utility lines or fences. They fly with very shallow, rowing wingbeats and a raised head, usually accompanied by metallic, sputtering calls. Eastern Kingbirds are visual hunters, sallying out from perches to snatch flying insects.

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Habitat: Eastern Kingbirds breed in open habitats such as yards, fields, pastures, grasslands, or wetlands, and are especially abundant in open places along forest edges or water. They spend winters in forests of South America.

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The Tree Swallows were not happy about the kingbirds and tried chasing them off, unsuccessfully. Not sure why. Maybe because they are already nesting in this deliciously buggy territory and don’t want to share?

Or is because kingbirds are such badasses?

The scientific name Tyrannus means “tyrant, despot, or king,” referring to the aggression kingbirds exhibit with each other and with other species. When defending their nests they will attack much larger predators like hawks, crows, and squirrels. They have been known to knock unsuspecting Blue Jays out of trees.

And speaking of defending nests, while I was attempting to photograph the flitting kingbirds a hawk soared overhead and the resident male Red-winged Blackbird took off for some aerial warfare to drive it off…

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Asymmetric warfare, but the little guy won in the end and the hawk soared off north and east.

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The male Tree Swallow watched the whole thing. Like many of the male birds now he perches at his post, on guard.

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Across the field, a kingbird was contemplating his summer kingdom.

It’s not called a kingbird for nothing. The Eastern Kingbird has a crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers on its head, but the crown is usually concealed. When it encounters a potential predator the kingbird may simultaneously raise its bright crown patch, stretch its beak wide open to reveal a red gape, and dive-bomb the intruder.

Here is one with his crest raised: Image.

The Eastern Kingbird is backyard bird number 53 for me.