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Tropical Kingbird - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies satrapa
Photo © by Jon Lowes
Guacimal, Costa Rica, 9 March 2007
Tyrannus melancholicus


Subspecies melancholicus
Photo © by Luis R Figueroa
La Azulita. Merida State. Venezuela, 13 March 2013

Male 18·4–24 cm (7¼-9½ in); female c. 18·5–22 cm (7¼-8¾ in)

  • Light grey head
  • Darker eye mask
  • Orange crown stripe
  • Greyish-green back
  • Brown wings
  • Pale grey throat
  • Olive breast
  • Yellow underparts
  • Forked tail,
  • Heavy grey bill

Sexes are similar, but young birds have pale buff edges on the wing coverts.

Similar Species

Easily confused with several other kingbirds, especially the White-throated and Couch's Kingbird


Photo © by rka
Maraval, Trinidad, 30 October 2018

Widespread from far southern Arizona and Texas south through most of Mexico, Central America, and South America, except for the highest Andes, and far south. Very common in most of its range.

Rare vagrant along pacific coast north to northern British Columbia. Accidental vagrant in the eastern United States with records north to Maine.



Consists of three subspecies1:

  • T. m. despotes:
  • North E Brazil (Amapá, Maranhão and Ceará to Bahia)
  • T. m. melancholicus:
  • T. m. satrapa:


Virtually any habitat with some trees, even within cities.


Bold and easily observed.


Their diet consists of almost entirely of insects, such as wasps, bees, butterflies and dragonflies. They may also eat some berries.


They make a fragile cup nest in a tree. The 2-3 cream eggs have reddish-brown marks; they are are incubated by the female for 16 days, with about 18-19 further days to fledging.


The typical call has been described as a bright, slightly liquid tree-ee-eer and tril-il-il-iil-l. Also pip- pri-pip-pri-pip-pri... Dawn song is a series of pip notes that lead up to a series of thin ascending trills.


Extreme northern and southern populations are migratory. Otherwise largely resident.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Mobley, J. (2019). Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). 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/57478 on 15 July 2019).
  3. Jahn, A. E., P. C. Stouffer, and R. T. Chesser (2013). Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.trokin.01
  4. Stouffer, P. C. and R. T. Chesser (1998). Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus), 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.358

Recommended Citation

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