Jan 13 2014
Continuing my tropical theme…
The tropical kingbird seems rare to us because his range barely touches southern Arizona and the lower Rio Grande valley, but he’s a very common bird in Central and South America and is often seen near humans because he likes what we do to the landscape — especially our wires.
I became interested in him when I learned his scientific name: Tyrannus melancholicus. It means “melancholy tyrant.” Why was he named this way?
Members of the Tyrannus genus are “tyrant” flycatchers because they fearlessly defend their territory, nest and young against much larger predators. Below, a tropical kingbird attacks a zone-tailed hawk. Our Tyrannus, the eastern kingbird, does the same to hawks in Pennsylvania.
Melancholicus, meaning melancholy, is not an obvious choice for such an active bird. Mourning doves are named for their sad song so I listened to the tropical kingbird’s song in case that’s what gave him his name. Click here to hear.
It doesn’t sound sad to me, but perhaps he’s so-named because he sings this tune in the dark before dawn and stops when the sun rises.
I don’t know… Do you?
(photos of tropical kingbirds in Barlovento, north-central Venezuela, by barloventomagico, Creative Commons license via Flickr)