Yellow-bellied FlycatcherEmpidonax flaviventris

adult
Arthur Morris/VIREO
immature (1st winter)
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult
Arthur Morris/VIREO

Description

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.

Habitat

Woods; in summer, boreal forests, muskegs, bogs. Breeds in wet northern forest, especially in spruce bogs with ground cover of sphagnum moss, also in tamarack-white cedar swamps, and in willow-alder thickets along streams in dense coniferous forest. In winter, lives in undergrowth of tropical forest.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a variety of small insects, both flying types and those taken from foliage, including many ants and small wasps, also flies, beetles, true bugs, caterpillars, moths, and others. Also eats many spiders, and eats small numbers of berries and sometimes seeds.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch, usually at low to mid levels in 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. May sometimes take some insects while perched.

Nesting

Male defends nesting territory by singing, often from an exposed perch. Adults tend to be quiet and inconspicuous around the nest. Nest site is usually in dense sphagnum moss on or just above the ground in boggy places; sometimes placed among the upturned roots of a fallen tree, or in other sheltered low spot. Generally well hidden within mosses with only a small entrance showing, and very difficult to find. Nest is bulky cup of mosses, mixed with weeds and rootlets, lined with grass, sedges, and many fine rootlets. Eggs: 3-4, sometimes 5. White, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 13-14 days. Probably only 1 brood per year.

Eggs

3-4, sometimes 5. White, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 13-14 days. Probably only 1 brood per year.

Young

Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 13-14 days. Probably only 1 brood per year.

Conservation

Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat, especially on wintering grounds. Currently numbers appear to be stable.

Range

Spring migration is notably late, with most northbound migrants passing through in mid to late May. Almost all migration is through the east, even for birds nesting in far western Canada.

Listen

turree call
song

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.

adult

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

In humid woods along the Pacific Coast, this little flycatcher is very common in summer. It favors deep shade, often in the groves along streams; it often places its beautiful mossy nest under a bridge or under the eaves of a cabin in the woods. This species and the Cordilleran Flycatcher are almost identical except for callnotes and range, and were regarded as one species (called "Western Flycatcher") until the late 1980s.

adult

Hammond's Flycatcher

The first claim to fame of Hammond's Flycatcher is that it is hard to tell apart from its relatives, especially the Dusky Flycatcher. However, although its range overlaps with that of the Dusky, Hammond's seems to prefer cooler surroundings at all seasons. It nests higher in the mountains and farther north; even on its main wintering grounds south of the border, it is usually in the mountains, not the hot lowlands.

adult

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.

Vireo

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