Tyrannus tyrannus

Status:  Common regular spring and fall migrant and breeder statewide.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM11592, 10 May 1892 Jamaica, Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).

Hybridization between this species and Western Kingbird may have occurred in Keith Co in 1994, when adults of each species were tending a nest together; the nest was destroyed by grackles before the plumages of the young could be determined (Brown et al 1996).

Additional examples of hybridization with Western Kingbird elsewhere are given in Gamble and Bergin (2020).

Spring:  Apr 2, 2, 2 <<<>>> summer

Peak migration, as indicated by High Counts, is around 10-15 May. Arrival is in mid-Apr, although there are earlier reports 24 Mar 1959 Thayer Co, 25 Mar 1972 Hall Co, 25 Mar 2015 Harlan Co Reservoir, Harlan Co, and 31 Mar 1971 Greeley Co; some or all of these may have been misidentified Eastern Phoebes. An aggregation of 77 in a four-acre area of a field in southeast Washington Co 26 May 2013 suggests migration extends through most of May.

  • High counts: 269 in Hall Co 13 May 2006, 196 at Harlan Co Reservoir 12 May 2004, and 158 in Hall Co 10 May 2003.

Summer: This species is generally more numerous than Western Kingbird in the north and east, and less numerous than that species in the Panhandle. BBS and eBird data indicate even distribution across the state.  Counts made across the state 15-17 May 2005 showed a Western: Eastern Kingbird ratio east of the Panhandle (six counties) of 302:112 and in the Panhandle (four counties) 213:31 (Stephen J. Dinsmore, personal communication).

Mollhoff (2004) noted that nesting was nearly synchronous across the state in 2002, with egg-laying in the east 19 Jun and incubation underway in Morrill and Sheridan Cos 22-23 Jun.

  • Breeding Phenology:
    Nest-building: 2-10 Jun
    Eggs: 3 Jun-26 Jul
    Nestlings: 7-24 Jul
    Fledglings: 16 Jul-4 Aug

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Oct 2, 3, 3

Migration may begin as early as late Jul and peak migration occurs during the second half of Aug; 50 were at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 18 Jul 2020, 46 were counted in southwest Dixon Co 30 Jul 2000, 42 in Lancaster Co 30 Jul 2009, and 31 in Keith Co 28 Jul 2001. Departure is in late Sep, although there are later reports 6 Oct 2014 Pawnee Lake, Lancaster Co, 7 Oct 1980 Adams Co, 7 Oct 2019 Kearney Co, 11 Oct 2013 Stanton Co, 12 Oct 1965 Adams Co, 15 Oct 1978 Douglas Co, 21 Oct 1986 Pierce Co, and 31 Oct 1981 Thomas Co.

  • High counts: 500+ in Cherry Co 1 Sep 2007, 200 near Valparaiso, Lancaster Co 6 Sep 2019, “hundreds” in Lincoln, Lancaster Co 27 Aug 2011, and 197 in Otoe Co 14 Aug 2005 (including 126 counted in 37 miles).


BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum

Literature Cited

Brown, C.R., M.B. Brown, P.A. Johnsgard, J. Kren, and W.C. Scharf. 1996. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station area, Keith and Garden Counties, Nebraska: Seasonal occurrence and breeding data. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 23: 91-108.

Gamble, L.R. and T.M. Bergin. 2020. Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.weskin.01.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2004. The 2002 Nebraska Nesting Report. NBR 72: 153-158.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020.  Eastern Kingbird (Tryannus tyrannus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 28 Aug 2020