Grey Kingbird at Honeymoon Island SP

Grey Kingbird by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP 7-4-2014

Grey Kingbird by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP 7-4-2014

All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O LORD, When they have heard the words of Your mouth. And they will sing of the ways of the LORD, For great is the glory of the LORD. (Psalms 138:4-5 NASB)

The Grey Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis) which we saw at Honeymoon Island SP last week was a Life Bird for me. Most Americans call it Gray, but the I.O.C. List of Birds use the Grey spelling. Either way, grey or gray, it is the same bird. That is one reason they use the Scientific name of Tyrannus dominicensis to ID the bird.

Recently I purchased the Latin for Bird Lovers book, because I have tried to see what these “scientific” mean on my own and thought this would be interesting. The book has over 3,000 bird names. I found it to be something quite useful, for me, at least. So let’s see what our Tyrannus dominicensis actually means.

  • Tyrannus “ti-RAN-nus” – “Tyrant, as in Tyanannus Allugularis, The White-throated Kingbird” [p.205]
  • dominicensis“doe-min-ib-SEN-sis-” – “After the Commonwealth of Dominica in the West Indies, as in Pluvialis dominica, the American Golden Plover, which passes through the West Indies during migrations.” [p.61]

So, we have a Tyrant that is from or passes through Dominica. The Kingbirds do belong to the Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers FamilyThere are 14 birds in the Tyrannus genus, which is the first part of the scientific name, Tyrannus Dominicensis, the second part of the name has 5 birds with that ending. That includes not only this Grey Kingbird, but also the Caribbean Martin (Progne dominicensis),  Antillean Siskin (Spinus dominicensis)Hispaniolan Oriole (Icterus dominicensis) and the Hispaniolan Spindalis (Spindalis dominicensis).

This was my 250th Life Bird record on eBird.

Grey Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Grey Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God. (Psalms 84:3 NASB)

“The Grey or Gray Kingbird, also known as Pitirre (Tyrannus dominicensis) is a passerine bird. It breeds from the extreme southeast of the USA, mainly in Florida, through Central America, from Cuba to Puerto Rico as well as eastward towards all across the Lesser West Indies, south to Venezuela, Trinidad, Tobago the Guiana and Colombia. Northern populations are migratory, wintering on the Caribbean coast of Central America and northern South America.

Grey Kingbird by Dan

Grey Kingbird by Dan at HISP

This tyrant flycatcher is found in tall trees and shrubs, including the edges of savanna and marshes. It makes a flimsy cup nest in a tree. The female incubates the typical clutch of two cream eggs, which are marked with reddish-brown. Grey Kingbirds wait on an exposed perch high in a tree,which is where we found it, occasionally sallying out to feed on insects, their staple diet.

The adult Grey Kingbird is an average-sized kingbird. It measures 9.1 in (23 cm) in length and weighs from 1.3 to 1.8 oz (37 to 52 g). The upper parts are grey, with brownish wings and tail, and the underparts are white with a grey tinge to the chest. The head has a concealed yellow crown stripe, and a dusky mask through the eyes. The dark bill is heavier than that of the related, slightly smaller, Tropical Kingbird. The sexes are similar, but young birds have rufous edges on the wing coverts, rump and tail.

Grey Kingbird (Tyrannus dominicensis) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

The call is a loud rolling trill, pipiri pipiri, which is the reason behind many of its local names, like pestigre or pitirre, in the Spanish-speaking Greater Antilles, or “petchary” in some of the English-speaking zones.

(from xeno-canto)

Like other kingbirds, these birds aggressively defend their territory against intruders, including mammals and much larger birds such as caracaras and Red-Tailed Hawks. This phenomenon has led to the widespread adoption of the pitirre as a nationalist symbol (a sort of David vs. Goliath figure) in Puerto Rico.

It is found in increasing numbers in the state of Florida, and is more often found inland though it had been previously restricted to the coast. The species was first described on the island of Hispaniola, then called Santo Domingo, thus the dominicensis name.” (from Wikipedia with editing)

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

I added this Northern Mockingbird which was also there at the State Park. At first we kept thinking the Kingbird was a Mockingbird. If you compare the photos, you will notice the Mockingbird has a white spot on its wings and also a black spot near its ear. They are very close though. Also, Dan’s photo of the Kingbird came out more brownish. It may be that he caught a younger one. There were several at the park.

Isn’t the Lord great in that He makes us work for the IDs of these birds. As I have said, He should have put name tags on them, but then we wouldn’t learn about His creativity, would we? It is good for us to learn new things. Never get bored with learning.

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. (Psalms 25:4 NASB)

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. (Psalms 32:8 KJV)





2 thoughts on “Grey Kingbird at Honeymoon Island SP

  1. Good point about the similarity between mockingbirds and kingbirds. Last time I saw a kingbird was on the campus of Dallas Christian College, back when I taught there — including a course called “Introduction to Ornithology and Avian Conservation” (what we called “the bird course”). The administration changed, soon afterwards the courses did too — how I miss teaching/co-teaching that course! Guess I’m getting old, as I find myself reminiscing about “the good times”. Yet my Bible tells me that the best times are yet to come. (Even so, come Lord Jesus!)


    • Amen to our coming Lord!
      Just so you don’t get too rusty, you can keep helping us here with your great articles. They are always welcome.


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