LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD: BENIGN ‘TYRANT’ OF ABACO
Abaco is home to 4 main so-called tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae): the loggerhead kingbird, the gray kingbird, the La Sagra’s flycatcher and the Cuban pewee. All are common permanent residents except the gray kingbird, which is a summer resident only. Several other flycatcher species are found on Abaco, but they are very uncommon winter residents, rare transients, or vagrants.
The loggerhead featured here in several poses is a watchful sentinel at Delphi. His preferred perches are in the edge of the coppice round the pool or at the edge of the main drive. From time to time he will leave his perch to catch a passing insect by ‘hawking’, returning to the same place to eat it.
Loggerhead and gray kingbirds can be quite easy to confuse. A couple of years ago I wrote about how to distinguish them, and with gray kingbirds in residence now this is probably a good time to set out the distinctions again.
LOGGERHEAD Tyrannus caudifasciatus vs GRAY Tyrannus dominicensis
DIFFERENCES and SIMILARITIES
TOP TIP ANY KINGBIRD SEEN IN WINTER WILL BE A LOGGERHEAD
- Kingbirds seen between (say) October & March are Loggerheads. Grays are strictly summer visitors
- Both are medium size birds and roughly the same size as adults (around 23 cms)
- Loggerheads have dark brown to near-black heads, grays have lighter, slate-coloured heads
- Loggerheads have a ‘squared’ tip to the tail; grays have a notched tip
- Loggerheads may have a whitish fringe at the tip of the tail; grays not so
- Loggerheads have yellowish tinges to their white undersides & forewings; grays less so or not at all
- Grays have a dark or black ‘mask’ through the eyes, often clear but not always easy to see
- Loggerheads allegedly have inconspicuous orange head crests; grays are red. I’ve never seen either!
- [*RH personal opinion alert*] Grays have larger, heavier beaks than loggerheads
- Grays are territorially aggressive; when they turn up, the loggerheads tend to retreat to the forest
Here is how David Sibley shows the differences
Illustrations: David Allen Sibley