nesting range. In the northern Great Plains, for example, the planting of trees in small towns and farmsteads on the prairie allowed the western kingbird to expand eastward. In other areas in the southeastern part of its breeding range, the clearing of forested land along with the proliferation of utility poles and wires made things more suitable for the birds.
Both kingbird species are highly territorial and will aggressively defend their nesting areas against other birds, particularly predatory ones. Kingbirds, along with red-winged blackbirds, are the species most commonly seen “divebombing” much larger birds such as red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures and crows.
The Birds of Summer
The western kingbird is often found in closer proximity to humans than eastern kingbirds. It can sometimes be found nesting in the parking lot islands of large shopping centers, hospitals, airports or other places with large expanses of parking lot interspersed with landscaping trees. However, birders are well aware of the bird’s affinity for two distinctly human environments—power substations and baseball fields. Both settings provide ample secure structures to place a nest, but it is baseball—particularly night baseball—that these birds especially seem to enjoy. In late spring and summer the powerful stadium lights attract countless flying insects, a bounty of easy pickings for birds rearing young. While baseball fans are watching the center fielder catch a fly, western kingbirds are often overhead doing the same thing.
At Kauffman Stadium, the kingbirds begin nesting near the end of April. During this time they are noisy and gregarious as males establish and defend territories and attract mates. Much of this activity focuses around the rows of small ash trees that border the parking lots outside the stadium. In 2010, at least three kingbird nests were found in these trees and others probably nested in less visible locations including the stadium light towers. If you are especially observant and fortunate, you may witness dramatic aerial courtship and territorial displays by the male birds. In these performances, birds fly almost straight up, then plunge downward with sudden stalling maneuvers combined with fluttering and vibrating of wings and feathers.
Soon the birds begin making appearances inside the stadium during games. They are even more conspicuous after their young hatch. With many hungry mouths to feed, the birds take advantage of the insects drawn to the stadium lights. Studies have shown that when insects are abundant, kingbirds produce more eggs