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Western Kingbird, Ian Routley
Photo © Ian Routley

Photo: Ian Routley
Breeding evidence - Western Kingbird
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Western Kingbird
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Western Kingbird
Elevation plot

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Western Kingbird
Tyrannus verticalis
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
3 - 1236 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
140 49 91 87
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -0.843 (-2.06 - 0.552)High
Canada1970 - 2012 0.654 (-0.166 - 1.47)High

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
   0.110.12 0.08
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.110.1 0.11  0.1

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
 0.1 0.12
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range This large grey flycatcher with a lemon-yellow belly and black tail is often seen hawking for insects in open country. The Western Kingbird breeds from southwestern Canada south to northern Mexico (Gamble and Bergin 2012). A medium-distance neotropical migrant, it winters from the Pacific coast of central Mexico south to Central America. The planted trees, buildings, and utility poles that followed human settlement across the western plains of North America in the last century are favoured by the Western Kingbird and allowed its westward spread (Campbell et al. 1997, Gamble and Bergin 2012).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Western Kingbird is a fairly widespread breeder in the valleys of southern British Columbia, centered in the Southern Interior Ecoprovince. The distribution from the Atlas is similar to that reported by Campbell et al. (1997).

The highest Probabilities of Observation are in the Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola and Fraser river valleys in the Southern Interior Ecoprovince, which is also where most Atlas point count data were recorded. Abundance here, however, did not vary greatly from locally high abundance values (based on small point count samples) in neighbouring ecoprovinces. Elevation is a better predictor of abundance, the species being most common between 250 and 500 m, an elevation range corresponding to valley floor locations supporting plentiful man-made or planted perching and nesting locations, within the three driest biogeoclimatic zones, Interior Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Bunchgrass.

The Western Kingbird breeds in a wide variety of open habitats such as grasslands, desert shrub, sagebrush flats, pastures, cultivated fields, urban areas, and rangelands along Ponderosa Pine forest edges. Where both the Western Kingbird and the Eastern Kingbird occur together, the Western Kingbird prefers lower, dryer, open areas with tall trees while the Eastern Kingbird prefers wetter, riparian forest (Campbell et al. 1997).

Conservation and Recommendations There has been a moderate increase in Canadian populations since 1970 (Environment Canada 2011) but populations in British Columbia have shown a moderate decrease (Environment Canada 2014). There are no known conservation concerns for this adaptable species.

Art Martell

Recommended citation: Martell, A. 2015. Western Kingbird in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Apr 2024]

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