Willow Flycatcher

Bird of the Month: Willow Flycatcher

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Willow Flycatcher)

PC: Mick Thompson (Willow Flycatcher)

Scientific Name: Empidonax Traillii

Length 5-6 in

AOU Band code WIFL

In North America, the Willow flycatcher inhabits more southern and western areas than its close relative, the Alder flycatcher.  It is common in our area in the spring and summer, found in a wide variety of habitats ranging from brushy fields to willows, thickets along streams, prairie woodlots, shrubby swales, and open woodland edges.

The range of the alder flycatcher overlaps with the willow’s range in the transition zone between prairie and boreal forest.

The willow flycatcher, 5-6” long, lacks an obvious, well-defined eye-ring, although the amount of color around the eye is variable.  In the West, birds tend to show no eye-ring, but eastern birds sometime have pale lores or a very thin eye-ring.  The bill is long and wide, with an orange lower mandible.  The bird’s back is brownish-green.  Song is a sneezy fitz-bew, both syllables equally accented.

In flight it catches insects, flying up to catch an insect and then returning to perch.  It feeds on a wide variety of insects, including at least 65 species of beetles.  About 41 percent of its food is wasps.  It builds a nest one to nine feet above ground, usually in an upright fork of a shrub, but occasionally on a horizontal limb.  Nests are usually built in an area of willows and plants of rose family.