Gray Kingbird

Photo of the Gray Kingbird, PitirreGray Kingbird (Eng.), Pitirre (Sp.), Tyrannus dominicensis; Native from coastal Georgia and Florida through the Caribbean Islands to southern Colombia and Venezuela.

Photo © Mike Danzenbaker. Information compiled by Alan Mowbray, Interpretive Media Writer, EYNF/LEF

General Information

One of the commonest birds in Puerto Rico, the Gray Kingbird has adapted well to human settlement.

Description

The Gray Kingbird is gray above and white below with a black “mask” over the eyes. The tail has a slightly forked tip and rarely visible red crown feathers. It is 8.6 to 9.8 inches (22 to 25 centimeters) in length and weighs 1.4 to 1.6 ounces (42 to 48 grams).

Habits

The common call of the Gray Kingbird is very familiar to natives of Puerto Rico. It sounds very much like its Spanish name “Pitirre”. It starts singing before dawn. It sits on an exposed perch such as a dead branch and catches insects in flight or by gleaning them from leaves. Its prey includes wasps, flies, dragonflies, beetles and caterpillars. It may also eat lizards and small hummingbirds! During the breeding season the Kingbird is very aggressive towards neighboring pairs and predators such as hawks, cats or even humans. A popular local expression is “Cada guaraguao su tiene Pitirre” meaning “Every hawk has its Kingbird to pester it”. The Kingbird lays 2 to 5 pink mottled eggs in a stick nest on a bush or a small tree.

Habitat

At the forest’s edge anywhere there is a perch and open areas to catch insects in the air.

Where to look for this animal in the EYNF

Along the El Portal Trail at the EL Portal Rain Forest Center.