While most of the country approaches the end of frigid winters, the Great Kiskadee, a colorful, tropical flycatcher, enjoys the warmth of south Texas.
Great KiskadeePitangus sulphuratus
Named for its ringing kis-ka-dee calls, this bird breaks the rules for the flycatcher family. Besides catching insects in the air, it also grabs lizards from tree trunks, eats many berries, and even plunges into ponds to catch fish. Its bright pattern is unique in North America, but in the tropics several other flycatchers look almost identical. The Great Kiskadee is found from Texas to Argentina and is also very common in Bermuda, where it was introduced in the 1950s.
Field MarksA very large, big-headed flycatcher, near size of Belted Kingfisher, and somewhat like that bird in actions, even catching small fish. It has rufous wings and tail. The bright yellow underparts and crown patch and the strikingly patterned black and white face identify it at once.
Size10 1/2" (27 cm)
VoiceA loud get-ter-heck (or kis-ka-dee); also wheep!
RangeSouthern Texas south to Argentina. Resident of lower Rio Grande Valley.
MigrationPermanent resident throughout its range. Very rarely strays north to Arizona (from western Mexico) and Louisiana.
HabitatStreamside thickets, groves, orchards, towns. In its limited Texas range, found most commonly in open woodlands near water, but may occur in any habitat with good-sized trees. In the tropics, occurs widely in many semi-open habitats, usually avoiding dense unbroken forest.
FeedingDiet: Omnivorous. Feeds mostly on large insects, such as beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, bees, and moths; but also eats lizards, mice, baby birds, frogs, tadpoles, and small fish. Also eats many berries and small fruits, and some seeds.
Behavior: Forages in various ways. Often flies out from a perch to catch flying insects in the air. Will perch on branch low over water and then plunge into water for fish, tadpoles, or insects. Often hops about in trees and shrubs to eat berries.
NestingBreeding behavior is not well known. Both members of pair actively defend nesting territory against intruders of their own species and are quick to mob any predators that come close.
Nest: Site is usually among dense branches of a tree or large shrub, 6-50' above the ground, usually 10-20' up. Nest is a large bulky structure, more or less round, with the entrance on the side. Nest is built of grass, weeds, strips of bark, Spanish moss, and other plant fibers, and lined with fine grasses.
Eggs: 4, sometimes 2-5. Creamy white, dotted with dark brown and lavender. Details of incubation are not well known.
Young: Apparently both adults help to feed the young in the nest. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.
ConservationNumbers stable or increasing in Texas. May be increasing and spreading in tropics as rain forest is cut, as it does well around clearings, edges, and second growth.