Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Gray Kingbird - Tyrannus dominicensis
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General Comments The Gray Kingbird is somewhat the Southern version of the Eastern Kingbird, being mainly a bird of Florida and the West Indies. Though it is easily seen in coastal southern Florida, and in the Florida Keys, very small numbers nest along the coast north to Georgia, and erratically in South Carolina. There are two documented North Carolina nestings, and on several other occasions the species may have nested, always along the extreme southern coast (Brunswick). Otherwise, the species over-shoots its breeding range in late spring, to reach our coast, and a few are also seen coastally in fall. There are three well inland records, all from the Piedmont. Habitats where it occurs are open areas with scattered trees, often telephone lines for perching, and frequently within view of tidal water.
Breeding Status Accidental Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Stray/transient, essentially along the coast, and accidental/casual breeder. As a visitor, very rare to rare along the southern half of the coast, and very rare north of Carteret. One photographed at Mackay Island NWR (Currituck) on 19 Sep 2018 was a first record north of Albemarle Sound. No inland records. A nest with an adult pair was seen in both 1996 and 1997 at Fort Caswell (Brunswick), and the species may have nested at Southport in 1957 (up to four birds seen). Primarily late Apr to early Jun, and early Sep to late Oct; extreme dates are 12 Mar - 2 Nov, except for an early winter report of one photographed at Bald Head Island (Brunswick) on 1 Dec 2020. Peak counts: 4, Southport, summer 1957; 2 on several occasions.
Piedmont Casual. There are only three records, from Umstead State Park (Wake) on 16 Apr 1959 [Chat 23:3 link]; from North Wilkesboro (Wilkes) on 5 Aug 1966 [Chat 30:4 link]; and from a farm area in Wake on 3 Oct 2015* [Chat 80:14-15 link], [Chat 80:43 link]. This last record was documented by photos and is the only one of the three records to have reviewed by the NC BRC.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips This is a long shot, but your best bet is to drive roads along the southern coastal islands, in late May. Carefully check birds on telephone wires -- of course, essentially all potential Gray Kingbirds will be Northern Mockingbirds or Eastern Kingbirds.
Attribution LeGrand[2021-05-17], LeGrand[2019-04-20], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.