My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii

The Willow Flycatcher is a small insect-eating, neotropical migrant bird of the tyrant flycatcher family.

Adults have brown-olive upper parts, darker on the wings and tail, with whitish underparts; they have an indistinct white eye ring, white wing bars and a small bill. The breast is washed with olive-grey. At one time, this bird and the Alder Flycatcher were considered to be a single species, Traill’s Flycatcher. The Willow and Alder Flycatchers were considered the same species until the 1970’s. Only their song tells them apart.

Their breeding habitat is deciduous thickets, especially willows and often near water, across the United States and southern Canada. They make a cup nest in a vertical fork in a shrub or tree.

These neotropical birds migrate to Mexico and Central America, and in small numbers as far south as Ecuador in South America, often selecting winter habitat near water. Willow Flycatchers travel approximately 1,500–8,000 km each way between wintering and breeding areas.

They wait on a perch near the top of a shrub and fly out to catch insects in flight, also sometimes picking insects from foliage while hovering. They may eat some berries.

This bird’s song is a sneezed fitz-bew. The call is a dry whit.

This bird competes for habitat with the Alder flycatchers where their ranges overlap.

On to my photos, and since willow and alder flycatchers are indistinguishable from each other visually, you’ll have to trust my ear on this ID:

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

Willow flycatcher

This is number 83 in my photo life list, only 267 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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4 responses

  1. Wow-how specific is that? Birds that live on willows and / or alders are pretty amazing. I wonder what they get out of being so species specific. There must be some benefit to it.

    April 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

    • Well, I don’t think that the birds are that species specific, just the scientists who renamed them from Traill’s Flycatcher, which was the name of both species until the 1970’s.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

  2. I’m so glad you showed these as fly catchers are just arriving in Maryland and I had no idea what they looked like. Thanks!

    April 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    • Flycatchers are almost as hard to ID as warblers, I have to really study my photos to make an ID of most of them.

      April 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm