Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae) – The Largest Bird Family in the world
This very diverse bird family of some 90 genera is entirely restricted to the New World, chiefly the Neotropical region, where numerically it is the dominant landbird family, and in South America, more than one-tenth of all landbird species are tyrant flycatchers. They are also found in the Galapagos Islands and West Indies.
Tyrannidae family facts (376 species)
No other family contains species which breed all the way from the cold, coniferous forests of northern Canada south to the treeless hills of rugged Tierra del Fuego, along the way utilizing all but the most inhospitable habitats.
The 34 species breeding in North America are all at least partially migratory, moving south to Central or South America in winter.
Tyrant Flycatchers Diet and Habitat
Tyrant flycatchers tend to be active, often rather aggressive, birds and most pursue insects rather than sit and wait for the prey to come to them, as the spotted flycatcher does in Britain. However they are not restricted to an insect diet — some regularly take fruit and a few are primarily frugivorous. Larger species may take small lizards and snakes, and sometimes fish or tadpoles, making good use of their strong, slightly hooked bills.
The tyrant flycatchers’ varied diet determines their wide range of forms — few characteristics apply to all the species. Mostly with relatively large heads, and tails which range from moderately long to spectacularly long, they also generally have well-developed rictal (gape) bristles which are thought to protect the eyes in dense vegetation.
Some of the pygmy-tyrants have wide, spoon-shaped bills with which they scoop insects from the undersides of leaves while darting rapidly through generally thick vegetation.
Size of Tyrant Flycatcher Bird
The short-tailed pygmy-tyrant (Myiornis escaudatus) is the smallest of all tyrants at just 6 cm (2.5 in) long and weighing 4.5 gm (0.16 oz). The largest tyrants reach 50 cm (19.7 in) and weigh up to 80 g (2.8 oz).
Because many of the species are so small and very restricted in range, they have gone unnoticed by science until quite recently. In some of the humid forests of the Amazon basin and the eastern Andes, some 70 tyrant species may occur together.
One species (still unnamed) remained undetected in the rain-forests of southern Peru until 1981 because, although locally common, it weighs just 7 g (0.24 oz) and lives high in the treetops.
And the tiny cinnamon-breasted tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus cinnamomeipectus) of extreme northern Peru was only discovered in 1976 when ornithologists first began to explore the cloud-covered summit of a mountain ridge where the species is restricted to the mossy, stunted forests on a handful of isolated peaks.