Great Kiskadee: Characteristics, feeding, captivity and more.

The Great Kiskadee is a bird whose scientific name is Pitangus sulphuratus , belongs to the family tyrannidae being a species of passerine bird.  It is a bird with a high-pitched cry, native of America and it is from this city where it leaves and is distributed throughout the continent starting in the southern United States and ending in central Argentina.

It is a bird that has as main characteristic a noisy and prolonged cry that emits, the male and female are similar, it can often be found near rivers, lagoons or streams, can also be found in parks and gardens. Due to its characteristic sound, this wonderful bird has several common names, used in the various regions where it lives, such as Cristofué, Quetupí, Bichofué, Bichofeo, pájaro Pitogue, Luis Bienteveo, among others.

great kiskadee

In this article you will meet this yellow-breasted bird that is very noisy, has a balanced diet, its nests are the trees built of different materials and this particular bird is said that when it sings it seems to say great kiskadee or quinto ve hence its particular name.  It is a quiet bird, only when necessary and when it comes to its young it defends them by confronting its opponent.


Its name is given by the sound that emits that is long, sharp and loud, is onomatopoeic because the sound emitted recalls this word, and that does not resemble the nightingale in a bird that we can commonly find in city parks and even in the gardens of our house, likes to be near water so we could also see it in natural environments that have this specification.

The great kiskadee is a small bird that measures only 22 to 25 centimeters approximately, when we observe it we can see that its head is large and has a black beak quite strong. The flight of this unique bird is slow, it seems as if its body is too heavy. They are sociable, lively, tame birds, and although their song is somewhat noisy, it is not unpleasant.

great kiskadee

This type of bird is characterized for being excellent parents, because they defend their young very well before any threat that approaches them, they are omnivorous birds because they feed on insects, larvae, fish, etc. The great kiskadee is a wild bird that should not be captured and should not be kept in captivity, they are birds that deserve to have freedom and fully enjoy it. Its taxonomy Scientific name : Pitangus sulphuratus, English name: Great Kiskadee, Common names: bichofué, great kiskadee, bienteveo, pechiamarillo, comechile or chichafría, Order: Passeriformes, Family: Tyrannidae.

Characteristics of the great kiskadee

The great kiskadee is a small bird but not more than the hummingbird, it can measure approximately 22 to 25 centimeters, it has a large head with black plumage with white stripes that give it a mask-like appearance and on the crown it has yellow stripes, it has short legs and long wings,  The legs are black and the wings are brown, its beak is robust, long and at the end it has a hooked shape and is black, the tail is short and brown as well as the back, the belly and chest are bright yellow, it has a crown that is also hidden in yellow.

This bird has a particular song and it can be identified as if it said its name bienteveo or quinto ve as it is popularly called in the country of Argentina, it can be found in lagoons, parks, rivers and rarely in dry places because it prefers to be near where there is humidity.  To fly it does it with heaviness and when it sees its prey it does like the hawks or vultures it surrounds it before attacking and devouring the food that generally are insects, fish, or of the ground.

It is a bird that is characterized by being loud and very scandalous, the construction of the nests of great kiskadee generally makes it in trees and uses twigs, sticks, threads, cotton, wool, etc., always does it in high places and to enter the nest always uses some softer material such as feathers. The breeding months are generally between August and March, they can lay up to 5 eggs, they are good parents and take care of their young perfectly. The female and the male are very similar.

Its character is docile, rather it is a quiet bird, which will only fight with another bird if it gets into a fight with its offspring. There is in the north of Chubut a species of bienteveo that is also called Pitangus sulphuratus bolivianus and measures about 22 centimeters approximately, the back has a brown color, the belly is yellow, the throat and crown are white with black stripes, the beak is long and robust as the bienteveo that we know.

great kiskadee

The sound emitted by this bird is a very loud and even shrill song, this song is used and emitted in various regions of America and hence arises the various names it has.


These birds are very similar between the female and the male. There are very few differences between the male and female of great kiskadee , the sexual maturity of them comes at about one year of life, at this age they seek to pair up to mate, when the male has already chosen his partner hegreat kiskadee takes control of everything and starts the courtship to be accepted by the female. To do so, he stands in front of the female in a straight upright position and with his neck in a vertical position, he tilts his beak down and shows his black feathers and his crown hidden on his head, at that moment he moves his wings quickly and produces a sound with his beak.

When the great kiskadee female accepts the male they join with their chests very close, their heads very rigid and flapping on the branches of the trees emitting loud cries. The period in which these birds generally reproduce is between spring and summer, the nests are built between the two using materials such as twigs, sticks, wool for the entrance always use some other much softer material, they are always made in a disorderly manner and at a distance of two to eight meters high is usually large and compact rounded and its entrance is on one side.

great kiskadee

The pairs of this species always return to the same nest they initially built to lay their eggs again, so the young must look for a place to make their own nests and this takes them five to six weeks of work, but the good thing is that they help each other.Usually you get nests already made in poles and many times when the area where they live does not have suitable places for the construction of the same they are satisfied with nesting in peach trees, trees that are near water or flooded soils.

the number of eggs laid by the female are 5 ovoid-shaped cream-colored eggs with a satiny touch and we can also great kiskadeeobserve reddish, brown and lilac spots and measures about 28 x 20 mm approximately. In the season it lays three to four times the same amount of eggs that the female incubates for a period of about thirteen days, when they hatch the parents are responsible for feeding them mainly insects such as wasps, beetles, grasshoppers, bees, moths but can also provide them with mice, small birds, frogs, small fish, berries, fruits.

It is a quiet bird but when it comes to defend its nest it does it without fear. At 35 days old these chicks are ready to be separated from their parents who took care of them during this time. Watch this video of great kiskadee nest.

Feeding of great kiskadee

If you have been wondering what does the great kiskadee eat? , this is an omnivorous bird, the way it hunts its prey is related to the way hawks do it, they circle their prey before great kiskadeeattack. The great kiskadee is a very astute bird that studies the area well before attacking either ground or water, has very varied techniques for this art and also for survival. When it has its prey in sight, it flaps at it with its body at an angle of about 45 degrees. The great kiskadee feeds mainly on insects such as beetles, wasps, grasshoppers, bees, moths, larvae, worms, we can also see it consuming lizards, fish, small birds, mice, fish which it has a very particular way of hunting.

When the great kiskadee goes fishing he performs his technique, he perches on a branch of a bush close to the water and where he can clearly see the area where he intends to attack and that mainly this branch protrudes into the water. He waits there until a great kiskadeefrog or small fish, it is then when the great kiskadee flies very fast to its prey and flapping its wings takes it without the need to dive into the water. Many say it uses the kingfisher’s hunting technique of carrying its prey to a branch and beating it to death.

These birds often burst into other nests to consume the eggs they find there, another way of feeding that is facilitated by man is when it is time to plow the land this causes the larvae and worms that are more in sight for the great kiskadee to consume them to be removed. On other occasions this bird attacks others to take their food and some have been seen eating bones and chicks. Below is the feeding of a great kiskadee chick.

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Distribution and habitat

This unique bird has a song that is very loud and shrill, usually in spring and summer when groups of these birds are seen together intervening with their song several times. The pairs of this species maintain a particular communication by means of these sounds when they are at a distance and their answers sound something like “fuiii” “feeh”.

great kiskadee

It is remarkable when they are gathered in the same place because of the commotion and great uproar that is formed among all, that includes the beating of the wings, that some of them ruffle the feathers on their heads, some make sounds with their beaks a chattering and this all they do before starting with their noisy song that sounds something like “wit-wit-wit.tiófeu.wit-tiófeu.wit-tiófeu.wit-tiófeu” to this song is accompanied by a low but continuous rattling. This mimic rattling is heard when they are in a breeding state, when there are chases and disputes over the female. Watch this video of great kiskadee singing.

Myths and legends of the great kiskadee

In this topic we will discuss the myths and legends that are woven around this particular bird, as in all provinces of the world all kinds of myths arise in relation to animals, from how they are born to their physical or sounds have for them a good or bad meaning. On this occasion it was the great kiskadee bird that for its particular and shrill song is characterized as a bird of bad omen or bad omens. Another myrtle says that if a great kiskadee passes by your house at noon it is because a visitor will arrive without waiting, these can be friends, relatives or any other person.

Its name is given by its song where they say they get to hear great kiskadee, according to the myths these yellow-breasted birds when it passes through some area and sings is because it announces misfortunes or pregnancies that will soon come in that family where the bird is singing, or simply consider it a bird of bad luck, for this reason it is not uncommon to see people trying to chase it away from the place.

There is a legend about the great kiskadee bird, it tells the story of an old woman and her two adopted children whom she had collected and was raising and feeding since they were very young. She was an old woman who could hardly eat anything due to her advanced age, and her food was provided by the area where they lived, such as fish, partridges, fruits and what the young ones collected during the day.

great kiskadee

This old woman had a vice and it was to smoke tobacco with this she could entertain herself and she liked to smoke this rustic stick that she always caressed with her wrinkled hands, the young people were in charge of assembling the tobacco and giving it to her, she spent long hours of the day sitting in an armchair smoking it. In that comfort in which she found herself, she did not even move to light her tobacco.

When the tobacco stopped burning, she would call the young men with great force and insistence pitogüé, pitogüé which meant that her dick had gone out. The youngsters immediately heeded the call of their adoptive mother, as long as they did not hear her fight, grumble or even endure her terrible insults. This call was repeated every day for many years, a call that did not allow the youngsters to have a quiet moment to play, not even to hunt freely because they always had to be attentive to the old woman’s call.

To look for food they had to do it in turns so that the old woman was never alone, they never had full freedom for anything because always the cry of pitogüé would be there to interrupt them even when they decided to go to do some activity they had to return resigned because the old woman was there with her unbearable cry again.

One day one of the young men said to the other: Let’s get out of here and let her manage as she can. The other replied: God is going to punish us, we can’t do that, she has raised us since we were little, the other replied: she raised us, yes, but she is driving us crazy.

That idea of getting rid of the old woman and her annoying scream fluttered in his head day and night, until one morning after eating a barbecue and some fruits they decided to leave the old woman to her fate, at that moment she was sleeping in her usual armchair with a cigarette between her wrinkled fingers.

When the old woman woke up she was so desperate to see that she was calling the young men and none of them answered that she promised loudly that her soul would be reincarnated to haunt them for the rest of their lives and make them pay for their abandonment. Legend has it that the old woman died, the young people continued on their way in an apparent happiness that overwhelmed them without knowing that this cry followed them inside.

They seemed to hear that sound but did not believe it until one morning they heard it so close and so clearly that they were frightened and amazed. And one young man said to the other, “Did you hear that? it’s the old woman calling us.  The other replies, “You’re crazy.  No, look, look… It was a bird that they had never seen before, perched on a branch just above their heads, it was the one who emitted the cry that once kept them in fear and terror.

The beak was very similar to the pointed nose she had and the stripes on the head resembled the headband the old woman wore for her hair.The frightened youngsters ran and ran but their effort was in vain because the bird did not stop chasing them with that deafening scream that terrified them.

The young men fell, thirst, hunger, madness and fear were stronger than their hopes for freedom.  Legend has it that the old woman was reincarnated in this black bird with a yellow breast to chase and torment these young people with her song of abandonment, it is said that she stayed to live in the trees to always remind them that the tobacco had been extinguished.

Another legend says that the great kiskadee is a grandson with an evil heart that, according to the legend, the god Tupa turned him into this bird for not giving his grandfather a glass of water. Below is a video of the legend of the great kiskadee.

Care that we must take into consideration

  • Maintain special attention and care in their singing and behavior to avoid diseases that can cause death.
  • Do not place them with other birds because they could cause fights and transmission of diseases.
  • Birds should never be kept near the kitchen or refrigerators, they need to be in comfortable places where they get enough sunlight and at night it is advisable to cover them with a soft and thin cloth.
  • It is very important to keep the cage clean, it is recommended to change the water twice a day and keep the feeders and the cage clean.
  • You should always be attentive to the food provided to these birds, it should always be a balanced diet based on insects, fruits, taking into consideration that you can not provide orange.
  • A bad feeding brings serious consequences to the bird.
  •  The mosquitoes are a plague that also affects the birds for that reason we must be attentive and exterminate them.


  • It is a peaceful bird that you will only see it aggressive when it defends its nest and its young.
  • There is very little sexual dimorphism as the male and female are almost identical.
  • This bird is less frequent in forested regions.
  • It is a very skilled and intelligent hunter.
  • Its diet consists of insects, larvae, mice, lizards, etc.great kiskadee
  • They are wild birds that are generally better off in the wild but can reproduce very well in captivity.
  • If you come across a great kiskadee pigeon , the best thing to do is to look for its parents, place it in a small box and place it in a high place to see if its parents come to take it away.
  • You can choose to locate the nest of great kiskadee that is sure to be near the tree where the chick appeared.
  • If the parents cannot be located and you decide to breed it, the best thing to do is to locate a suitable cage and feed it correctly.
  • Start by giving it food made with exclusive products for these birds to which you can include previously grated apples.
  • Twice a week you can include in the bird’s diet the yolk of hard-boiled egg and give it just 1