Western Kingbird Fledgling

Western kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) build their nests in a variety of locations. Usually the nest is located in the vertical fork or on a horizontal branch of a tree, 15 to 30 feet above the ground. This flycatcher also utilizes utility poles, ledges, towers, cliffs, empty sheds or buildings or even other abandoned bird nests to raise its young.

Several western kingbirds use the hybrid poplars next to our house as a nursery (near Lookout CA/Modoc County). Recently I noticed a mature kingbird sitting on the fence outside my study window. I wondered why the kingbird never flew off. Finally I noticed a fledgling sitting on the ground next to the fence. The parent was watching its young offspring. Eventually the adult flew off leaving the baby. For about 45 minutes the fledgling sat there, no adult be seen. I began to worry that the youngster had been abandoned. When the little bird at last flapped its wings a few times before flying about 200 feet back to the poplar, Leonard and I cheered it along. Its flight was erratic and we were not certain the fledgling would achieve it goal, but it did get back into the tree. The little guy was going to be OK!

Western kingbirds have an olive-grey back, pearl grey chest, yellow belly, brownish black wings, black tail and pale grey head. Immatures are duller and paler than adults.

The western kingbird nest is a cup of grass, weeds, twigs and plant fibers lined with fine materials such as feathers, plant down, animal hair and bits of paper. The 3 to 5 whitish eggs are heavily blotched with brown, lavender and black and hatch after 18 or 19 days of incubation by the female. Both parents feed the nestlings, which fledge after 16 to 17 days.

The fledgling pictures were taken through my study window. The adult was photographed along National Forest Road 40N11 near Adin CA/Modoc County. I have so many pictures of western kingbirds I did not bother taking another, even though one was posing outside my window.  By the time I realized there was a fledgling and a “story”, the parent was gone.

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