Family Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Least Concern

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)


French: Tyran mélancolique German: Trauerkönigstyrann Spanish: Tirano melancólico

Tyrannus melancholicus


, 1819,



See T. niveigularis. Formerly treated as conspecific with T. couchii owing to limited hybridization in Mexico (S Veracruz, Atlantic slope of N Oaxaca), and possibly intergrades with it, but differs significantly in voice. Apparent hybridization with T. dominicensis reported in SE USA (Florida)#R. In addition, possible hybrid (“T. apolites”) with Empidonomus varius described from Rio de Janeiro area of SE Brazil. Geographical variation over the species’ enormous range very inadequately known, and current taxonomy may require modification; race satrapa apparently intergrades with nominate. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. m. satrapa (Cabanis & Heine, 1860) – #Rextreme SW USA (SE Arizona, SW New Mexico, S Texas; has nested Florida#R) and W & E Mexico (both slopes S from Sonora, Tamaulipas and S San Luis Potosí to SE Veracruz and E Oaxaca; also Yucatán Peninsula) S to Panama, N Colombia and much of N Venezuela (mostly N of R Orinoco, also along S bank in NW Bolívar); also Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada and Leeward Antilles.
  • T. m. melancholicus Vieillot, 1819 – throughout tropical South America (except N Colombia, N Venezuela and NE Brazil) S to WC Peru (Lima) and, E of Andes, to SE Bolivia and C Argentina (S to Neuquén and NC Río Negro).
  • T. m. despotes (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – NE Brazil (Amapá, Maranhão and Ceará S to Bahia).
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 18·4–24 cm, 32–43·4 g; female c. 18·5–22 cm, 32·7–46 g (nominate); unsexed 37·5–52 g (nominate), 31... read more


    Similar to T. dominicensis, but a softer and less emphatic “pip- pri-pip-pri-pip-pri... read more


    Wide variety of habitats, often near water. Widespread throughout lowlands in mostly open and semi-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost exclusively insectivorous, taking primarily hymenopterans (wasps, bees), dragonflies (Odonata) and butterflies (Lepidoptera); at... read more


    Mar–Jul in Costa Rica; Apr–Nov in Venezuela (W Apure); Feb (Popayán), Apr–May (Santa Marta) and nest-building in... read more


    Apparently resident in S USA (S Texas), but at least partially migratory in N Middle America (race... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Very common. Estimated global population 200,000,000 individuals. Has extremely large range, the largest of all kingbirds. Has doubtless increased in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Mobley, J. (2019). Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 8 December 2019).