Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Willow Flycatchers galore!

Wind is the bane of desert birding. You arrive at dawn only to find the winds howling. It is the tail end of migration anyway, so migrants are thin to begin with. But I persevered. In each mesquite clump I found flycatchers nearly on the ground on the lee side of the trees, hungrily consuming flying insects after their all-night flight.

The most common small flycatcher present this day was Willow Flycatcher. I estimated there were 7, but there could easily have been more. I found only 2 the next day. One of the notoriously difficult to identify Empidonax flycatchers, this Empid has these ID marks: Short primary projection past the secondaries, eye ring almost lacking, all-yellow under mandible, brownish-olive plumage, white throat. A liquid "whit!" call and an occasional sneezy "fitz-bew!" song, helped confirm. Not all birds sing in migration, many wait until they are on the breeding grounds. So having an aural confirmation of identity is always nice for this look-a-like group.

Willow Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher. Borrego Springs waste treatment ponds, California. May 26, 2019.


  1. Thank you for helping identify what I've only known as a songbird up until now. Over the years I've shared my back porch with multiple fledglings, watching in awe as their parents darted in and out with mouths of food,
    It's a highlight of the start of summer around here. Again my thanks

    1. That's great, Ruth! I'm glad you have determined you have a flycatcher as a summer nester on your back porch. The dull greenish flycatcher that commonly nests on porches is a phoebe. In the east that's Eastern Phoebe; in the west Say's Phoebe.


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