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A KINGBIRD FAMILY
(Tyrannus tyrannus)

KINGBIRDS, members of the flycatcher family, are truly kings among birds, for they will fearlessly attack anything on the wing that happens along, and may be counted on to come out the better. It must be said that they will also occasionally pounce upon smaller birds, striking them to the ground, though only rarely and when especially provoked. Kingbirds lay their eggs late in the season, the young often not leaving the nest before the middle of August when the insects that form their diet are most plentiful. At this period large grasshoppers, dragon flies, etc., often still alive, are pushed whole into the gaping beaks of the hungry youngsters. In securing their food, these birds simply have to wait, for the most part on their observation perches, from which they dart out at short intervals for the insects that float by in the air. They seldom stray far from the nest, therefore, and are always on hand to question any intruder.



DRAGON FLIES, LARGE GRASSHOPPERS, ETC., OFTEN STILL ALIVE, ARE THRUST WHOLE WELL DOWN THE THROATS OF THE HUNGRY YOUNG KINGBIRDS


KINGBIRD FEEDING YOUNG. NOTE THE HORIZONTAL POSITION OF THE BIRDS. THE HEAD OF THE ADULT IS TURNED AT AN ANGLE AT WHICH IT CAN MOST EASILY THRUST THE FOOD DOWN THE THROAT OF THE YOUNG

While the writer was photographing a family of these birds, they would repeatedly dart down past his head, giving resounding snaps with their beaks. Their graceful and dexterous sallies after insects furnished a sight worth seeing. They would suddenly dart out in a long curve, and a loud snap of the beak, signifying the capture of an insect, would be followed by a continuous glide on and up to another perch; or perhaps turning a complete somersault they would return to their original station. Long dashes of fifty yards or more were frequent, and rarely did the luckless insect escape. Sometimes in pursuing a fugitive fly they performed several rapid revolutions within the radius of a foot. Hours quickly passed, indeed, while one was engrossed in watching the aerial manoeuvres of these expert flyers.



THE PARENT KINGBIRD THRUSTS THE FOOD DOWN FORCEFULLY TO INSURE AGAINST ITS BEING DROPPED


AFTER FEEDING THE YOUNG, THE PARENT KINGBIRD CAREFULLY WIPES ITS BEAK

The old birds repeatedly tried to entice their offspring away from the perch on which they were placed for photographing. With a choice morsel in its beak, the parent would hover just behind the young, approaching and retreating in its efforts to coax its progeny to a safer location; and without dropping the morsel from its beak it argued and called persistently. In this endeavor, it was frequently successful to the annoyance of the photographer, whose patience and perseverance were otherwise sufficiently tried.



KINGBIRD READY TO LEAVE


EVIDENCE OF THEIR DOWNY STAGE REMAINS SOME TIME AFTER THE YOUNG KINGBIRDS ARE WELL FEATHERED

To secure bird pictures, the naturalist often must spend many tedious hours in gaining the confidence of his subjects, but once they begin to overcome their original shyness it becomes a question of dexterity in snapping the required poses. These preliminary hours of patience should be profitably employed in studying the characteristics of the species, for without knowing the birds, one can not hope to have his pictures tell accurately a part of their life history. Lying concealed in the tall grass about thirty feet distant, the writer was able to make many interesting observations, the camera eventually verifying many of them in an invaluable way.



A GOOD PORTRAIT OF AN ADULT KINGBIRD

It was several days before really satisfactory pictures of this kingbird family were obtained, but gradually the birds became accustomed to the camera, until the writer was able (by means of a thread) to snap as many pictures as he desired. Yet the birds continued to regard the camera with distrust, and never failed to greet the appearance of the visitor with clamorous demonstrations suggestive of anything but welcome.


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