MundoAndino Home : Argentina Guide at MundoAndino

Great Kiskadee

The Great Kiskadee, Pitangus sulphuratus, is a passerine bird. It is a large tyrant flycatcher; sometimes its genus Pitangus is considered monotypic, with the Lesser Kiskadee (P. lictor) separated in Philohydor.

It breeds in open woodland with some tall trees, including cultivation and around human habitation, from southern Texas and Mexico south to Uruguay and central Argentina, and on Trinidad. It was introduced to Bermuda in 1957, and to Tobago in about 1970.


Adult Great Kiskadees are long and weigh . The head is black with a strong white eyestripe and a concealed yellow crown stripe. The upperparts are brown, and the wings and tail are brown with usually strong rufous fringes.

The black bill is short and thick. The similar Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua) has a massive black bill, an olive-brown back and very little rufous in the tail and wings. A few other tyrant flycatchers – some not very closely related – share a similar color pattern, but these species are markedly smaller.

The call is an exuberant BEE-tee-WEE, and gives the bird its name in different languages and countries: In Spanish-speaking countries it is often bien-te-veo ("I see you well!") In page 62, Charles Darwin calls it Saurophagus sulphureus. He says "The Saurophagus sulphureus is typical of the great American tribe of Tyrant-flycatchers. [...] In the evening the Saurophagus takes its stand on a bush, often by the road-side, and continually repeats, without change, a shrill and rather agreeable cry, which somewhat resembles articulate words. The Spaniards say it is like the words, "Bien te veo "(I see you well), and accordingly have given it this name."See it also in The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online or, sometimes, benteveo. In Brazilian Portuguese the bird's name is bem-te-vi, with a similar meaning. A local Mexican name is luis bienteveo, in El Salvador and Venezuela it is known as Cristofue, and in Paraguay as pitogue. In French it is called tyran quiquivi.


The Great Kiskadee is a common, noisy and conspicuous bird. It is almost omnivorous, and hunts like a shrike or flycatcher, waiting on an open perch high in a tree to sally out to catch insects in flight, or to pounce upon rodents and similar small vertebrates. It will also take prey and some fruitE.g. of Tamanqueiro (Alchornea glandulosa) or Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba): Pascotto (2006), Foster (2007). from vegetation by gleaning and jumping for it or ripping it off in mid-hover, 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 of the understory, they do not seem to join mixed-species feeding flocks very often. When they do, they hunt in the familiar manner. Such opportunistic feeding behavior makes it one of the commonest birds in urban areas around Latin America; 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 blotched with reddish brown. They are incubated by the female.

This alert and aggressive bird has a strong and maneuverable 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 predator's presence. If not very hungry, any raptor subject to a Great Kiskadee's mobbing behavior is likely to leave, as it is wellnigh impossible to make a good catch when subject to the tyrant flycatcher's unwelcome attention. In general, avian predators are liable to steer clear of an alert Great Kiskadee, lest their hunting success be spoiled, and will hunt the Great Kiskadee itself – though it is as meaty as a fat thrush – only opportunistically.

To mammalian and squamate predators that can sneak up to nesting or sleeping birds, it is more vulnerable however. Even omnivorous mammals as small as the Common Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) will try to plunder Great Kiskadee nests – at least during the dry season when fruits are scarce – despite the birds' attempts to defend their offspringde Lyra-Neves et al. (2007). One of two birds studied in the Parque Nacional de La Macarena of Colombia was parasitized by microfilariaeBasto et al. (2006).

The bright coloration of the Great Kiskadee makes it easy to recognize and as noted above, is shared by several other more or less closely related Tyrannidae. It is not known whether this apparent convergent evolution is a case of mimicry, and if so, whether the Great Kiskadee's pugnaciousness encourages some predators to leave birds with such colors well alone. Given that some Tyrannidae are alleged to taste badly, the color may also be an aposematic warning of noxious chemicals contained in the birds' meat. In a peculiar coincidence, the Foxface Rabbitfish (Siganus vulpinus) and related species have evolved a strikingly similar coloration and pattern; here it is almost certain that the colors are aposematic, as these fishes use a poisonous sting to defend themselves.

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


(2006): Haematozoa in birds from la Macarena National Natural Park (Colombia). Caldasia 28(2): 371-377 [English with Spanish abstract]. PDF fulltext

(2005): Foraging behavior of tyrant flycatchers in Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia 22(4): 10721077 [English with Portuguese abstract]. PDF fulltext

(2007): Comportamentos interespecificos entre Callithrix jacchus (Linnaeus) e algumas aves de Mata Atlantica, Pernambuco, Brasil [Interspecific behaviour between Callithrix jacchus (Linnaeus) and some birds of the Atlantic forest, Pernanbuco State, Brazil]. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia 24(3): 709716 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDF fulltext.

(1991): A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition). Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, N.Y.. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2

(2007): The potential of fruiting trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico. Bird Conservation International 17(1): 45-61. PDF fulltext

(2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5

(1999): A composicao dos bandos mistos de aves na Mata Atlantica da Serra de Paranapiacaba, no sudeste brasileiro [Mixed flocks of birds in Atlantic Rain Forest in Serra de Paranapiacaba, southeastern Brazil]. Revista Brasileira de Biologia 59(1): 75-85 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDF fulltext

(2006): Avifauna dispersora de sementes de Alchornea glandulosa (Euphorbiaceae) em uma area de mata ciliar no estado de Sao Paulo [Seed dispersal of Alchornea glandulosa (Euphorbiaceae) by birds in a gallery forest in Sao Paulo, southeastern Brazil.]. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14(3): 291-296 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDF fulltext

(1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4

External links

Bermuda Online: Bermudian Fauna.

List of Mexican Birds from the Museo de las Aves

Stamps (for Argentina, Brazil, British Honduras-(Belize), Guyana, Nicaragua, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela)

Great Kiskadee videos, photos & sounds on the Internet Bird Collection

Great Kiskadee photo gallery VIREO

Didn't find what you were looking for.
Need more information for your travel research or homework?
Ask your questions at the forum about Birds of Argentina or help others to find answers.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Great Kiskadee

Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - 2009