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Eastern Kingbird Nests

Sunday, July 17, 2011

 So I'm floating along with my camera, marveling at all I've seen in a few hours of doodling around in my lil' peapod canayak. I just can't get over the array of active nests I've found. Just goes to show you what birds can accomplish when mammalian and reptilian predation is controlled by oh, four or five feet of water.

This snag intrigued me, just because the Virginia creeper framed the cavity so beautifully. I didn't see a vine running up the tree, and because it was standing in several feet of water, any vine coming from the ground would be drowned. I figured the creeper had rooted in the cavity. I circled the tree, shooting, and it wasn't until I saw the photo on the camera screen and blew it up (trying to figure out where that vine was coming from) that I saw that the tree hid another treasure.          
There was a nice nest inside the cavity, which could have belonged to a robin, but I suspected it might have been built by an eastern kingbird, because there were gobs of them around. Would a kingbird build in a cavity like that?

Well, would you?

I might.

More discoveries: I saw some stuff sticking out of the top of a rotten stub, which resolved into nesting material, and a setting kingbird. Well!

Well, hello, Missy! I'll pass by--don't you worry or get up, OK?

Luckily for you, she did leave the nest for a moment. I say that because this gives me a chance to tell you how to sex a kingbird.  See the gray wash on her breast? That's a female. Males have a clean white breast. Nice of them to have a little dimorphism, just enough to make it fun for a birdwatcher.

But my favorite kingbird nest of the day (and this was more kingbird nests than I'd seen in my life, for goodness' sake!) was the last one. I saw a beautiful kingbird fetched up on a snag, and shot a photo of it.

We bird photographers can have tunnel vision--we're trying so hard to get the bird in focus and framed that we often overlook what's around the bird. See anything interesting in this photo?

Yeah, it took me awhile, too. Sweet! There were two little heads bobbing in the nest. 

 It was a beautiful end to an incredible day on the water. All I want to do is go back to West Virginia's North Bend State Park. You can lose yourself at a place like that.


We have a plethora of eastern kingbirds here at Anahuac NWR and lesser numbers of scissor-tailed flycatchers. Our numbers are going down now. I'm not sure if they are dispersing or moving to wetter places. Most of our mosquito-breeding water is completey dried up and we don't have as many of any kind of bugs, including grasshoppers.

The kingbirds have raised at two batches of birds, one as soon as they got here in April, and I found them sitting on nests as late as last week.

Very wonderful to have found them to watch the families grow and fledge.

I'm betting that a weathered stump nest beautifully framed in virginia creeper shows up in a Zick painting.

Thanks for the sexing lesson. Now I know that osprey girls wear bras and kingbird girls wear grey shirts.

How fortunate to see so many kingbird nests, and to top it off with a couple of babies! Great photos!

Thank-you for sharing this amazing place with us! That kingbird with nest and babies in the crotch of the tree is an amazing shot.

Ohhh. Any chance I could snag a float with you some day?

What a fantastic habitat. That was certainly a memorable trip!:-)

Thank you for sharing. So well written and executed. I loved it.

Posted by Anonymous July 18, 2011 at 5:22 AM

Great pictures as always, and i can see where watching birds can be very relaxing. Richard

Very envious of your floating trip. But it's good to see the cousin of Cassin's Kingbird which we see frequently at our house in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. The body shape is much the same.

Just last week I seen an Eastern Kingbird for the first time in my life and had to look it up to see what kind of bird it was. I live in southern Wisconsin.

Posted by Anonymous July 19, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Mkircus said:
"Most of our mosquito-breeding water is completey dried up and we don't have as many of any kind of bugs, including grasshoppers."

-- Have no fear, Eastern Kingbirds LOVE to eat Bumblebees, wasps, and all manner of omnipresent insects. That's why their local name here in SC is "Bee Bird".

Nathan Dias - Charleston, SC

Posted by Anonymous July 20, 2011 at 5:35 AM

Sherlockina Holmes! Nice detective work. Also, that's a handsome bird, to be "merely" grey and white.

I love that you were focused on getting the photo of the adult Kingbird and happened to catch it AND the baby, hilarious!

I'd recommend you check out eastern phoebe, Julie M. An eastern kingbird wouldn't nest on someone's porch. That's eastern phoebe territory. Both flycatchers, so you're close, but the phoebe wags its tail and says PHE-BEE and the kingbird has a black tail with white terminal band and sputters, and nests in trees.

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