09.02.18: Kingbird on post

An Eastern Kingbird calls from a post in Slate Run Metro Park, Canal Winchester, Ohio. 


Technical information

July 26, 2014,
9:10 a.m.

39°45'31.519" N 82°52'1.32" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/1600th second


When you do wildlife photography like I do you become accustomed to rejection. Whenever you point the camera at a subject that subject often leaves immediately.

It’s a survival mechanism for wildlife, but it makes wildlife photography very challenging.

But this Eastern Kingbird wasn’t interested in leaving.

I saw it perched on a broken sign post as I approached a walkway above the wetlands in Slate Run Metro Park south of Columbus, Ohio. The bird would call, then stop to listen before calling again.

I grabbed a couple of photos, then moved a bit closer. I fully expected the bird to fly away, but it stayed and kept calling. So I grabbed some more photos, then moved a bit closer again. The bird stayed. So I grabbed a few more photos, then moved closer again. The bird stayed again. But I had reached the point where I was too close for a photo with the lens I was using. So I walked on by, probably within eight feet of where the bird was perched.

It stayed.

I’m assuming this was a rather young kingbird calling for its parents because it didn’t perceive me as a threat.

The Eastern Kingbird is a distinguished-looking bird.

With its bright white underside topped by dark gray — almost black — feathers on its back, wings and head and white-tipped tail, the Eastern Kingbird looks like it is dressed for a formal occasion. And the adult kingbird’s behavior — chasing after any bird, large or small, that dares to fly over its territory — makes it clear that the bird is indeed king of its area.

I had always assumed that the name “kingbird” came from a combination of the bird’s look and its behavior.

I was wrong.

It turns out that the Eastern Kingbird has a crown, although I’ve never seen it.

According to All About Birds, my favorite online source for bird information, "The Eastern Kingbird has a crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers on its head, but the crown is usually concealed. When it encounters a potential predator the kingbird may simultaneously raise its bright crown patch, stretch its beak wide open to reveal a red gape, and dive-bomb the intruder.”

All the Eastern Kingbirds that I’ve photographed have been perched calmly atop small trees or tall plants in fields. I’ve never seen one in its aggressive, crown-raised posture. Maybe one of these days.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.