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Thick-billed Kingbird
Tyrannus crassirostris
– Family
Authors: Lowther, Peter E.

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Thick-billed Kingbird, Pomoca, CA; December
Figure 1. Distribution of the Thick-billed Kingbird

On 4 June 1958, in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern Arizona (8 kilometers north of Sonora and1.6 kilometers from New Mexico), John and Seymour H. Levy found a pair of Thick-billed Kingbirds (Levy 1959). These birds, seen again later that month by Richard F. Johnston and John W. Hardy (Johnston and Hardy 1959), represented the first documented occurrence of this species breeding north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Since that time, Thick-billed Kingbirds have become “uncommon but fairly widely dispersed breeding birds in southern Arizona” (S. M. Russell pers. comm.).

As with most other kingbirds, this is a bird of open habitats that forages for insects by aerial hawking flights. The Thick-billed Kingbird “makes a big show of each food-capturing flight, quivering the wings and keeping the head feathers erected” (Phillips et al. 1964: 79). It nests inaccessibly high in trees, and detailed study of its breeding biology is lacking; even general statements of its breeding biology have limited factual basis. Indeed, little has been published on almost any aspect of this species’ life history.

The most extensive single source of pub-lished material on Thick-billed Kingbird is that of Smith (1966), who provides 6 pages of text (in his 250-page monograph) of his observations of 5 males (1 paired) of this species that were made on 3 days at 3 sites in southern Ari-zona and northern Sonora, Mexico, in June 1962. This limited record of displays and vocalizations of this species was set against a more extensive examination of the Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) in Smith’s survey of Tyrannus vocalizations and behavior.

Much of this species’ biology is likely similar to that of other kingbirds: Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans; Tweit and Tweit 2000), Tropical Kingbird (T. melancholicus; Stouffer and Chesser 1998), Couch’s Kingbird (T. couchii; Brush 1999), Western Kingbird (T. verticalis; Gamble and Bergin 1996), and Eastern Kingbird (T. tyrannus; Murphy 1996).