Kings of the Neighborhood

Exploring Kansas Outdoors


I often just shake my head at people who rebuild in the same exact location time-and-again after their homes are destroyed by storms, and especially by flooding, which is obviously prone to happen over-and-over where they choose to live. I wonder why they don’t move to where the threat of flooding is less. For the third year running now, we’ve had a family of kingbirds nest on the streetlight pole in front of our house, and the last two years the nest was destroyed by storms. There is a metal bracket where the steel pipe holding the light attaches to the pole, and they seem to love the small “pocket” it offers. Its hilarious to watch the female as she evidently feeds a chick buried in the nest. She has to spread her wings each time to keep herself from falling deep into the nest, which is not visible at all. I could stand there and throw a stone at a dozen different poles around that would offer better digs, but nope, they love this one!
Kingbirds are classified as “tyrant flycatchers,” birds that hunt and feed by snatching insects in midair, known as “aerial hawking,” or while hovering, often returning to the same perch time and again with their catch. Because of their mode of hunting, they need large open areas nearby to accommodate their hunting style, thus, nesting in the open on that light pole makes perfect sense to them. Plus, the street light beside them will attract a buffet of insects every night. The “tyrant” part of their classification is earned because they aggressively defend their nest and territory against intruders, often succeeding in driving away much larger birds like hawks and owls. Western kingbirds are a species that have benefitted from man’s acts of planting trees and erecting light and power poles.
Kingbirds make a kind of jabbering, twittering sound and we often see them hovering above the nest while making that noise. They are masters of hovering by flapping their outstretched wings but remaining in one spot above us. They are also known to be masters of great acrobatic maneuvers while hunting, although we have not yet been treated to that. Kingbird’s breed and nest all across the western half of the United States and winter in Mexico and South America. They have a small topknot that usually lies flat unless agitated, but their pale-yellow breast is probably what distinguishes them the most.
We enjoy watching our kingbird pair; now that they are evidently feeding a chick or chicks, they are both either perched on the light pole or on the nearby wire, one usually has a snack in its beak, and they always greet our presence with their jabbering song. I’m not sure how they will drag their kids up out of that nest this year, but I hope they can get it done before Nature destroys it again. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected].


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