This week on Discover Nature, watch for an aerial hunter in Missouri, perched on fences, phone wires, and trees; flitting to catch insects and fend off avian intruders.
Eastern kingbirds have black on the head and dark gray on the back, with white underparts, a distinctive white band on the end of the tail, and a bright reddish-orange crown on its head – though this small patch can be hard to glimpse in the field.
The Eastern kingbird earns its name, in part, for its fearless physical attacks of other birds – known to chase away crows and even hawks, screaming and sometimes landing on them in flight, pecking fiercely on their backs.
Members of the flycatcher family, kingbirds naturally check populations of relatively large flying insects such as wasps, beetles, grasshoppers, and robber flies.
Bristly feathers funnel food into its mouth before returning to its perch where it bangs the insect on the branch and swallows it.
Learn more about the Eastern kingbird, including places to watch them near you, with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.
Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.