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Great Kiskadee

Pitangus sulphuratus

Length: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 15 inches Seasonality: Extremely rare visitor
ID Keys: Distinctive, with black and white striped head, yellow belly, white throat, and rufous-colored uppperside

Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratusThe Great Kiskadee is a tropical flycatcher, quite dissimilar in appearance to other flycatchers typically found in the United States.  It differs not only in looks, but also in behavior.  In addition to flying out from a perch to grab insects (ala most flycatchers), the Great Kiskadee also acts like a shrike at times, pouncing on lizards or other small vertebrates, and will even fish like a kingfisher.  This adaptable and opportunistic bird is a common sight throughout Latin America.  The species is named after it's loud calls. In South Dakota, they were an unknown species until 2015, listed as "hypothetical" based on an unconfirmed sighting of one in the state. Given that no surrounding states had any sightings of the bird, further sightings of the bird were clearly not expected.  However, in the fall of 2015, at least one and possibly up to three different Great Kiskadees were found at a farmstead near Volga, South Dakota.  At least one bird survived into December.

Habitat: Can occur in most habitats with trees, but is often found in woodlands or other trees near streams and poinds.  They typically need both trees and open lands, and avoid dense forest. 

Diet: Will feed on a wide variety of items, both vegetable and animal matter.   Often feeds on large insects, but will also take fish, lizards, tadpoles, small mice, baby birds, and eggs.  Also feeds on fruits and berries.

Behavior: Very adaptable, using a wide variety of hunting methods (as mentioned in the introduction). 

Nesting: Builds nests in thick foliage of a large shrub or tree, typically from 10 to 30 feet up.     

Breeding Map: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Species is named after it's loud and conspicuous call, which is often repeated in concert with several other adjacent birds.  

Migration: Typically a permanent resident throughout its range.  Not known to wander widely.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Great Kiskadee sightings

Similar Species: Distinctive in the United States, but several other tropical flycatchers are similar in appearance.

Conservation Status: Very common, adaptable, and increasing in number and possibly in range.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter: Great Kiskadee

2) Great Kiskadee

3) Audubon Guide - Great Kiskadee

Photo Information: December 2nd, 2015 - Near Volga in South Dakota - Terry Sohl


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Great Kiskadee - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Unknown in South Dakota until the fall of 2015, when at least two individuals were found near a farmstead south of Volga.  The land owners first noticed the birds in August, and in early December of 2015, at least one bird was still surviving, living on suet and mealworms put out for it by the land owner.

Additional Great Kiskadee Photos
Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus Great Kiskadee - Pitangus sulphuratus