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Great Kiskadee - BirdForum Opus

Adult, subspecies P. s. guatimalensis
Photo © by Reini
Laguna del Lagarto Lodge, Costa Rica, February 2005
Pitangus sulphuratus


It's about 10 1/2" (27 cm) size.
A stocky flycatcher with relatively broad black bill, black-and-white striped head, olive-brown back, bright yellow underparts and rufous wings. Its tail conspicuous in flight. Generally also has a yellow crown.

Similar species

Easily mistaken with the Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua), due to size and colours. They are separated by:

Juvenile, subspecies P. s. argentinus
Photo © by Francisco Paludo
Curitiba, PR, Brazil, 30 November 2016
  • Bill, which is much broader and with a strongly curved culmen in the Boat-billed Flycatcher.
  • Wings, which are rufous in Great Kiskadee (see photo) and olive in Boat-billed Flycatcher (careful; juv. Boat-billed with rufescent to wings).

Can be mistaken for the smaller-sized similar coloured flycatcher as well, e.g. Rusty-margined (Myiozetetes cayanensis) and Social Flycatchers (Myiozetetes similis) and Lesser Kiskadee (Philohydor lictor), but they are separated by size and their noticeably slimmer and/or shorter bills.


P. s. guatimalensis
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Shrimp farm, Near Cañas, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica, 1 July, 2023

Very common and widespread throughout Latin America. In North America, occurs in extreme southern Texas and eastern and western Mexico. Occurs throughout Central America. In South America, it is absent only from the Pacific coast, the highest Andean regions and in far south. An introduced population is found in Bermuda.


Subspecies P. s. argentinus
Photo © by Baires
Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 2005

Was initially thought to be shrike of the genus Lanius, but this idea was discarded many decades ago.


There are 10 supspecies recognised[1]:

  • P. s. texanus: Southern Texas (Rio Grande Valley) to south-eastern Mexico (Veracruz)
  • P. s. derbianus: Arid western Mexico (southern Sonora to Isthmus of Tehuántepec)
  • P. s. guatimalensis: South-eastern Mexico (Nuevo León) to central Panama
  • P. s. trinitatis: Extreme eastern Colombia to eastern Venezuela and north-western Brazil; Trinidad
  • P. s. caucensis: Western and southern Colombia (south-western Bolívar, Cauca and Magdalena valleys)
  • P. s. rufipennis: Coastal northern Colombia and northern Venezuela
  • P. s. sulphuratus: Tropical south-eastern Colombia to south-eastern Peru, the Guianas and northern Brazil
  • P. s. maximiliani: Amazonian Brazil to eastern Bolivia and chaco of Paraguay
  • P. s. bolivianus: Highlands of eastern Bolivia (Cochabamba to Tarija)
  • P. s. argentinus: Extreme south-eastern Brazil to eastern Paraguay, Uruguay and central Argentina


Rivers, streams, and lakes bordered with dense vegetation; also in more open country and in parks in most of its range. Very adaptable to human life in cities.


This bird has a noticeably aggressive behaviour, pursuing and attacking bigger birds or even snakes.


Nest is a domed structure with side entrance made of grass and twigs. Clutch is two to five (usually three to four) whitish eggs with brown spots.


Its diet is omnivorous, consisting of, in addition to insects, small fruits and seeds and even fish, diving straight into the water like a kingfisher, although not as deeply.


Loud, piercing kis-ka-dee, hence its English name. Also makes an incessant, shrill chattering. In several other languages, it is called "bem-te-vi" or "bentevi", also because of its call.


Mostly resident but may leave higher elevations seasonally.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Mobley, J. (2019). Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/57461 on 2 August 2019).
  3. Brush, T. and J. W. Fitzpatrick (2002). Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.622
  4. Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/grekis
  5. Prum, R. O. (2014), Social Mimicry in Birds. Zool J Linn Soc, 172: 910-941. doi:10.1111/zoj.12192
  6. BirdForum Member observations

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