Photos and article by Kathryn Mann
Western Kingbirds are a flycatcher usually found in Oklahoma during the summer months near farms that have grazing livestock. There is a pasture not far from me where I often see one sitting within 50 yards of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, who they somewhat resemble less the long tail. Like the Scissor-tailed flycatcher they sit on tall weeds, bare branches, barbed wire, or fence posts as they scout out insects flying through the air. When they spot a victim they quickly swoop out to catch them in mid-air.
Western Kingbird next to a cow pasture in northeast Oklahoma
Western Kingbirds are about 8 inches long. They have a 15 inch wingspan and weigh just 1.4 ounces. The top of their breast and throat are white, while the rest of their belly and chest is yellow. They are light gray on top and have a black tail with white edges. Just like their cousin the Eastern Kingbird they have a touch of red on the back of their head that is usually difficult to see.
Western Kingbird near Shidler, Oklahoma
During courtship the male Western Kingbird soars up to 65 feet making numerous twists and turns before finally coming to a stall and then making a series of aerial somersaults as he comes down to earth.
This is a baby Western Kingbird that is two weeks old, and this is its first time out of the nest
They are aggressive defenders of their nests and young. I have twice seen them driving off hawks.
Unlike most flycatchers they are rather solitary and are usually seen alone or in a pair.
This is a juvenile Western Kingbird about 25 days old
The Western Kingbird was once known as the Arkansas Kingbird.