The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
Recently I read when Eastern Kingbirds start to migrate south, they gradually group up into larger groups as they migrate. I'd not realized that before and remembered it this week when I saw a group of eight or ten kingbirds. It was one of those things that I'd probably witnessed in the past but just wasn’t aware of what I was seeing. During the breeding season, Eastern Kingbirds typically do not flock, but during migration and on the wintering grounds, they gather in large groups. Apparently their flocking behavior has begun.
Eastern Kingbirds are flycatchers. They are described as, “ blackish above and white below. The head is a darker black than the wings and back, and the black tail has a conspicuous white tip.”
You have probably noticed kingbirds chasing hawks or crows in flight. Cornell's All About Birds says, “Eastern Kingbirds are creatures of the air, flying quickly and directly without gliding as they hawk insects, chase intruders, or deliver food to nests. Foraging birds sometimes head into the wind and flutter their wings to move slowly over grass tops, plucking food items. Mates use an exaggerated form of this distinctive flight as a way of greeting each other. Each pair maintains a loosely defined breeding territory and usually reunites the following year, using the same territory. DNA fingerprinting reveals that it must be common for kingbirds to mate outside the pair bond. Eastern Kingbirds may sometimes parasitize each other’s nests by leaving their own eggs to be raised by another pair. Males and sometimes females are very aggressive in territorial disputes, often resorting to aerial fights in which they lock feet together, pull out each other’s feathers, and sometimes fall to the ground. Eastern Kingbirds also attack large nest predators like crows and Blue Jays; such aggression has been shown to increase their breeding success.”
Keep your eyes open and you may witness a group or even a flock of Kingbirds as they prepare to travel to South America for the winter.