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The Great Kiskadee

26 April 2010 No Comment

The Great Kiskadee.

The Great Kiskadee is a large tyrant flycatcher. It breeds in open woodland with some tall trees, including cultivation and around human habitation.

The Great Kiskadee is a common, noisy and conspicuous bird. It is almost omniverous, and hunts like a flycatcher, waiting on an open perch high in a tree to catch insects in flight, or to pounce upon rodents and similar small vertebrates. It will also take prey and some fruit from vegetation by jumping for it or ripping it off in mid-Air, and occasionally dives for fish or tadpoles in shallow water, making it one of the few fishing passerines. They like to hunt on their own or in pairs, and though they might be expected to make good use of prey flushed by but too large for the smaller birds.  They do not seem to join mixed species feeding flocks very often. When they do, they hunt in the familiar manner.  Such feeding behavior makes it one of the commonest birds in urban areas in Belize,  its flashy belly and its shrill call make it one of the most conspicuous.

The nest, built by both sexes in a tree or telephone pole, is a ball of sticks with a side entrance. The typical clutch is two or three cream eggs lightly reddish brown. They are incubated by the female.

This alert and aggressive bird has a strong and controllable flight, which it uses to good effect when it feels annoyed by raptors. Even much larger birds are attacked by the Great Kiskadee, usually by diving down or zooming straight at them while they are in mid-air.  Harsh calls are also often given during these attacks, alerting all potential prey in the area of the predetor’s presence. If not very hungry, any raptor subject to a Great Kiskadee’s behavior is likely to leave, as it is impossible to make a good catch when subject to the kiskadee’s unwelcome attention.  In general, predators are liable to steer clear of an alert Great Kiskadee,  lest their hunting success be spoiled, and will hunt the Great Kiskadee itself .

The bright coloration of the Great Kiskadee makes it easy to recognize.

Not being appreciated as a song bird, the Great Kiskadee is not usually kept caged and therefore has escaped the depredations of the pet trade.  Also, its feeding mostly on live prey makes it extremely difficult to keep in captivity. It is not considered threatened.

To learn more about Birds, please go to our Birds of Belize page.

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