Acadian FlycatcherEmpidonax virescens

adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult and nestlings
Michael Patrikeev/VIREO

Description

In southern woods in summer, the short explosive song of the Acadian Flycatcher comes from shady spots along streams or near swamps. This is the only member of the confusing Empidonax group to nest in most parts of the deep south. Its range extends north to the Great Lakes and southern New England, and it has been gradually expanding this range toward the north.

Habitat

Deciduous forests, ravines, swampy woods, beech groves. Breeds mostly in wet deciduous forest, such as in swamps or dense riverside woods; also in the understory of drier woods. Often nests in beech trees where they occur. Winters in the tropics in woodland or along its edges.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially wasps, bees, ants, caterpillars, and beetles, also flies, moths, true bugs, and others. Also eats some spiders, millipedes, and some small fruits and berries.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch, usually at mid levels within the forest, and then flying out to catch insects in the air. Also takes some food (such as caterpillars and spiders) from foliage or twigs while hovering.

Nesting

Courtship displays involve rapid aerial chases through the trees; male may hover above female when she stops to perch. Nest site is in tree or large shrub, usually deciduous, averaging 13' above ground, sometimes 4-50' up. Usually suspended within horizontal fork of branch well out from trunk. Nest (built by female) is a rather loosely made cup of weed stems, twigs, grass, and other plant fibers, sometimes lined with finer materials such as rootlets and plant down. Webs of spiders and caterpillars probably help to hold nest together. Usually has trailing strands of weeds or other materials hanging below, giving nest a sloppy or abandoned appearance. Eggs: 3, sometimes 2-4. Creamy white, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by female, 13-15 days. Young: Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 13-15 days. Male may continue to feed fledglings from first nest while female begins incubating the second clutch of the season.

Eggs

3, sometimes 2-4. Creamy white, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by female, 13-15 days. Young: Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 13-15 days. Male may continue to feed fledglings from first nest while female begins incubating the second clutch of the season.

Young

Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 13-15 days. Male may continue to feed fledglings from first nest while female begins incubating the second clutch of the season.

Conservation

Would be vulnerable to loss of habitat, but no significant decline noted so far. In some regions, Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay eggs in nests of this species.

Range

Unlike other Empidonax flycatchers, the Acadian regularly migrates north across the Gulf of Mexico in spring. Most migration is at night.

Listen

twilight song #2
calls #1
twilight song #1
songs & twitters
calls #2

Similar Species

adult

Alder Flycatcher

A small bird that spends the summer catching flying insects in northern thickets. This bird and the Willow Flycatcher are so similar to each other that they were considered one species until the 1970s. The only differences apparent in the field are in their voices. However, voice is important to these birds: many other kinds of songbirds have to learn their songs, but Willow and Alder flycatchers are born instinctively knowing the voice of their own species.

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Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

While some of its relatives are often found in sunny open places, the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is a bird of deep shade. It spends the summer in spruce bogs and other damp northern forests, where it places its nest on the ground in sphagnum moss or among tree roots. Although the Yellow-bellied is not as hard to identify in spring as some small flycatchers, birders may miss it because it moves north late, after most of the spring migrants have passed.

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Least Flycatcher

The eleven Empidonax flycatchers in North America are notorious for causing trouble for birders. All are small birds with wing-bars and eye-rings, and most are very hard to tell apart. The Least Flycatcher is the smallest and grayest of this group in the east, and it is often common near woodland edges, where it perches in the open and raps out its snappy song, chebeck!

adult  Western

Willow Flycatcher

Until the 1970s, this bird and the Alder Flycatcher masqueraded as just one species under the name "Traill's Flycatcher." They are essentially identical in looks, but their voices are different. Either kind may be found in thickets of either willow or alder shrubs, but their ranges are largely separate: Alder Flycatchers spend the summer mostly in Canada and Alaska, while Willow Flycatchers nest mostly south of the Canadian border.

adult

Eastern Phoebe

Despite its plain appearance, this flycatcher is often a favorite among eastern birdwatchers. It is among the earliest of migrants, bringing hope that spring is at hand. Seemingly quite tame, it often nests around buildings and bridges where it is easily observed. Best of all, its gentle tail-wagging habit and soft fee-bee song make the Phoebe easy to identify, unlike many flycatchers.

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