Status: Common regular spring and fall migrant and breeder west and central, fairly common east.
Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM13464, 10 May 1903 Lancaster Co.
Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).
Hybridization between this species and Eastern 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).
There are three Nebraska reports of this species mating with Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. A female mated with a male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Lincoln, Lancaster Co in 1921, but the nest was abandoned and taken over by House Sparrows (Swenk and Dawson 1921). A male that had been present in the summers of 1926 and 1927 in Logan Co mated with a female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher one of the years (Glandon and Glandon 1935). Details accompanying a report of a family group of kingbirds in western Douglas Co in 2015 suggest that the adults were a mated pair consisting of a Western Kingbird and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
Additional examples of hybridization with Eastern Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher elsewhere are given in Gamble and Bergin (2020).
Spring: Apr 21, 21, 22 <<<>>> summer
Migrants occur statewide, with peak migration mid-late May.
This species has a strange affinity for the eastern edge of Eppley Airfield in Omaha; perhaps the Missouri River is somewhat of a barrier. No fewer than 60 were there 27 May 2010, up from the 21 there 1 May, and 28 were there 4 Jun 2019.
- High counts: 311 in Keith Co 13 May 2004, 241 in Hall Co 13 May 2006, 60 at Eppley Airfield, Omaha, Douglas Co 27 May 2010, and 49 in Morrill and Box Butte Cos 12 May 1995.
Summer: This species breeds statewide, although numbers are lower in the east; counts made across the state 15-17 May 2005 showed 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). BBS and eBird data reflect this decrease in density from west to east across the state.
Western Kingbird expanded its breeding range in the 20th Century eastward across Nebraska (Swenk and Dawson 1921; Squires 1928). Bruner et al (1904) stated that it occurred east to about the 100th meridian and to the mouth of the Niobrara River in the north, and further east was but a rare migrant. It now is not uncommon in eastern cities and towns, and sometimes it may be locally numerous; three pairs were found along 40th St in Omaha 29 Jul 2009. In Jefferson Co in the 1960s Western Kingbird was rare to absent, but in 2020 Eastern and Western occur in about equal numbers (Matt Hansen, pers. comm.).
- Breeding Phenology:
Eggs: 4 May-16 Jul
Nest-building: 30 Jun
Nestlings: 15 Jul
Fledglings: 2 Jun-4 Aug
- High counts: 150 in the Lake McConaughy, Keith Co area 22 Jun 2002 and 86 in Cherry Co 28 Jul 2009.
Fall: summer <<<>>>> Oct 1, 1, 2 (west, central); summer <<<>>> Sep 22, 27, 27 (east)
There are later reports in the west and central 6 Oct 1981 McPherson Co, 8 Oct 2003 Scotts Bluff Co, and 12 Oct 2002 Sherman Co (Brogie 2003), and in the east, 4 Oct 2017 in Omaha, Douglas Co, 8 Oct 2005 Lancaster Co, and 24 Oct 2009 in Otoe Co. There are very late dates 10 Nov 1967 Dawes Co (Cortelyou 1968) and 11 Nov 1993 Sarpy Co; it has occurred in Minnesota as late as early Nov.
Loose groups may organize by the end of Jul; 148 were counted in Keith Co 28 Jul 2001 and 50+ at a location in Scotts Bluff Co 27 Jul 2003, and, in the east, 20 in Lancaster Co 13 Jul 2007. Adults leave up to a month before juveniles and pause migration to molt in the southwest (Barry et al 2009, Gamble and Bergin 2020), a form of molt migration. Gamble and Bergin (2020) cited Phillips et al (1964), who detected two fall migration peaks in Arizona, mid-Jul and Sep to early Oct, that probably were a result of these adult/juvenile differences. Most have departed by mid-Sep, about a week earlier in the east.
Rosche (1994) stated that in the west “most yellow-breasted kingbirds seen after about 10 Sep tend to be Cassin’s.”
- High counts: early peak: 148 in Keith Co 28 Jul 2001, and 44 at Eppley Airfield, Omaha 4 Aug 2015; later peak: 188 around Lake McConaughy 22 Aug 2000, and 70+ in Cherry Co 1 Sep 2007.
BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
Photograph (top) of a Western Kingbird at Omaha, Douglas Co 6 Jul 2010 by Phil Swanson.
Barry, J.H., L.K. Butler, S. Rohwer, and V.G. Rohwer. 2009. Documenting molt-migration in Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) using two measures of collecting effort. Auk 126: 260-267.
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.
Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Cortelyou, R.G. 1968. 1967 (Tenth) Fall Occurrence Report. NBR 36: 58-67.
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.
Glandon, E.W., and R. Glandon. 1935. Further additions to the list of Logan County birds. NBR 3: 29-31.
Phillips, A.C., J.T. Marshall, Jr., and G.B. Monson. 1964. The Birds of Arizona. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.
Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska. Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.
Squires, W.A. 1928. The eastward advance of the Arkansas Kingbird. Bird-Lore 30: 330.
Swenk, M.H., and R.W. Dawson. 1921. Notes on the distribution and migration of Nebraska birds I. Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae). Wilson Bulletin 33: 132-141.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 28 Aug 2020