Bird of the Month by Russ Chappell
In 1989 the American Ornithologists Union officially divided the Western Flycatcher into two species, the Pacific Slope and Cordilleran Flycatcher, which can only be distinguished by slight differences in body, feather measurements and sound.
However, if you spot a tiny, olive-above-yellow-below flycatcher with a peaked crown, teardrop-shaped eye-rings, white wing bars, a short bill and tail, odds are it is a Cordilleran, especially during breeding season. The Cordilleran and Gray flycatchers breed in our area, but during fall migration the Pacific Slope and Dusky Flycatchers may migrate through on their way to Mexico, which can add confusion to identification.
Cordilleran Flycatchers prefer dry forests at medium and high elevations, where they feed on a variety of insects captured in flight or while foraging in trees and shrubs, including small wasps, bees, flies, caterpillars, moths, beetles and spiders, as well as the occasional berry or seed.
Nests may be in the forks of small trees, but often are positioned in fragmented portions of stream banks, on remains of fallen trees, under bridges, or in the rafters of outbuildings or sheds. The female builds a nesting cup with grass, roots, moss, bark and leaves, lining it with softer items like fibers, hair and feathers.
Usually a clutch consists of four, rarely as many as five, whitish-brown splotched eggs that the female incubates, with both male and female delivering food to the nest. Chicks hatch in about two weeks, and can fly in another two.
With a Continental Concern Score of 11 out of 20 and not listed on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List, this species has been sighted in many locations, including Granite Creek and Stricklin Parks, Watson and Willow Lakes, the Thumb Butte Trail and the Dells.
Adding this species to your 2020 list will require getting out and exploring Prescott’s natural habitats with a sharp eye and good hearing, but it will be well worth the effort when you spot this beautiful species.
The Prescott Audubon Society is an official chapter of the National Audubon Society. Check it out online at PrescottAudubon.org.