Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Tropical Kingbird - Tyrannus melancholicus
TYRANNIDAE Members:
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General Comments This abundant Neotropical species ranges north to extreme southern Texas and southern Arizona. However, there are some migratory movements of the Tropical Kingbird, and thus strays have appeared as far east as the Atlantic Coast, and on many occasions to the Pacific Coast. Because this species looks very similar to the Couch's Kingbird, which is limited mainly to eastern Mexico and southern Texas, identification of the species pair away from the breeding grounds must typically rely on the distinctive vocalizations. In fact, the astounding first record for North Carolina, in winter 1985-86, which had photographic documentation, was turned down for publication in a national journal because no voice recordings were made, despite the distinctive high-pitched twittering call being often heard. In the state, the four records are from coastal and Tidewater areas; two are from farmland habitat, with fields, telephone lines, and animal feedlots in the vicinity.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Accidental. There are four records, three in late fall or early winter: one near Fairfield (Hyde), 29 Dec 1985 - 3 Jan 1986 [Chat 54:57 link]; one at Pea Island, 29 Oct - 19 Nov 2001 [Chat 66:34 link], [Chat 67:2-3 link]; and one near Lake Phelps (Washington), 19 Nov - 26 Dec 2005 [Chat 70:10 link], [Chat 70:31 link]. Each of these records is documented with photos, though there appear to be no voice recordings. The fourth record, not yet reviewed by the NC BRC, was one seen and photographed at North River Preserve (Carteret) on 3 Jun 2017 [Chat 81:107-108 link]. The NC BRC has accepted the first three records, based on plumage and bill characters, as well as voice descriptions. There is at least one other report of the species pair, almost certainly a Tropical based on likelihood -- Couch's almost never strays far from its breeding range.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips
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Attribution LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2017-12-18], LeGrand[2012-08-17]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Tyrannus melancholicus