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A couple of weeks ago I came across a Western Kingbird perching on a pecan tree. At first, the bird just sat there, posing prettily, but not doing anything particularly interesting. Then, suddenly, it began energetically flapping its wings although it continued to cling to its perch. I was able to capture a couple of images of this behavior.
I’ve seen and photographed kingbirds on many occasions but I’d never observed one doing this. What was this kingbird doing?
I can think of two possible explanations for the bird’s behavior. The pecan tree on which I found this bird is part of a long line of such trees that borders a dirt farm road. In summer months both Western Kingbirds and their cousins, Tropical Kingbirds, use these trees as residences. It’s not unusual to see a dozen or more of these birds perching on a few of these trees on a summer morning. Not only do kingbirds perch on these trees but they nest there. My guess is that this kingbird’s frenetic behavior had something to do with courtship and breeding. One possibility is that the kingbird was showing off in an attempt to attract a mate. It’s not unusual for male birds of many species to go through elaborate courtship displays as they seek mates. Perhaps this display is the kingbird’s equivalent of the loud calling that male Red-winged Blackbirds engage in during their breeding season.
There’s a second possibility, and that is that this kingbird had staked out a territory and was displaying as a way of discouraging possible competitors for the same territory. There are a lot of kingbirds out there and limited space on those pecan trees.
A few days after I made these images I witnessed an even more dramatic display by a kingbird. I’ll post those images in the very near future.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 800, f6.3 @ 1/1600.