Tropical Kingbird

Tyrannus melancholicus
Range Map

In south Texas you can not trust eyes alone to identify this bird species. So close in appearance to the Couch’s Kingbird, it is only by hearing them you can know which bird is in front of you. South of the Mexican border through Central America to Panama these birds are common and sometimes found in mountains at 10,000 feet elevation.

Taxonomists call out three subspecies of Tropical Kingbird:

  • T. m. satrapa breeds from southern Arizona, New Mexico, and south Texas, and recently in Florida. Also found south throughout Mexico, Central and northern South America.
  • T. m. despotes lives in northeastern Brazil.
  • T. m. melancholicus lives in tropical South America south of northern Colombia, Venezuela and northeastern Brazil.

During the earliest days of the global pandemic (Mar-2020), I stayed at the Breeze Lake RV Camp in Brownsville (Texas). I chose it not only because of its proximity to several famous south Texas birding venues, but it seemed like a promising location to meet local avifauna. It did not disappoint. Among the many bird species visiting the grounds, were both Couch’s and Tropical Kingbirds, and I learned to hear the differences in their calls.

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