Who Is The King of Birds?

Bald eagle, female at Hays, 24 July 2021 (photo by Theo Lodge)

2 August 2021

Many would say the bald eagle is the king of birds but when it comes to attitude, actions and name the small songbird attacking this eagle is both King and Tyrant.

Eastern kingbird attacks bald eagle, Hays, 24 July 2021 (photo by Theo Lodge)

Attitude: The eastern kingbird is often fierce and angry. This one is showing the orange-red crest he keeps hidden beneath his head feathers until he’s very, very mad.

Eastern kingbird (photo by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren from Wikimedia Commons)

Actions: Eastern kingbirds relentlessly defend their territories and will (obviously) ride the backs of hawks and eagles to peck their heads. 

Males and sometimes females are very aggressive in territorial disputes [with other kingbirds], 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.

from Eastern Kingbird account, All About Birds

In late July when Theo Lodge took the attack photo, the kingbird was ensuring a successful breeding season by defending his “kids.” The juveniles look like adults now except for yellow mouths.

Juvenile eastern kingbird, 23 July 2013 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

And so the eastern kingbird earned the common name of king and a scientific name, Tyrannus tyrannus, that doubles up on tyrant.

Enjoy them now in Pittsburgh. They’ll be gone by early September.

(eagle photos by Theo Lodge, kingbird photos from Wikimedia Commons)

4 thoughts on “Who Is The King of Birds?

  1. I’ve been seeing crows harass bald eagles, ospreys and turkey vultures this year. Speaking of which…

    One day a few months ago I saw a bald eagle swimming toward the bank of the Neuse River in NC, using powerful butterfly-like strokes. I had never seen them do that before. Turns out he was dragging a large dead fish, and once he got it to the bank, crows buzzed him to the point that he flew away. Soon after that, at least seven or eight vultures were circling the sky, and after they swooped in and landed, one dominant one began eating the fish while the others stood close by and watched. Ten or so minutes later, the eagle returned, and all the vultures backed off while he stood with the fish for a few minutes like a boss. Finally he lifted off with the obviously heavy fish and flew away, I assume to bring it to his eaglets and mate. It was quite an exciting show. 🙂

    1. Tom, don’t worry that the kingbird would hurt the eagle. Kingbirds don’t have talons and sharp beaks. All they have is a tyrant’s attitude.

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