Inhabits large tracts of mature, mesic, forests with shrubby understory, generally near a stream or ravine. Forests are typically deciduous, but include hemlock ravines, cedar swamps, pine-oak woodland, and conifer plantations. Often associated with streams or swamps within larger dry forests.
This species is of moderate conservation importance, because of its overall low density, and its dependence on mature forests both on the breeding grounds and the tropical wintering grounds. This species is still common, with overall stable populations at present, although steep declines have been noted in Florida and the southern Appalachian. Understanding its relationships with forest fragmentation and structure, and the effects of various silvicultural practices, will be important for conserving future populations.
Male: A small, nondescript flycatcher, very difficult to separate by sight from other Empidonax flycatchers. Upperparts are olive-green with two whitish wing bars; underparts variable, but commonly pale grayish throat, pale olive wash across breast, yellow belly and undertail coverts. Bill is wide (compared with Least Flycatcher), with a black upper mandible, yellow or pinkish lower mandible; thin yellowish white eye-ring present.
Female: Same as adult male.
Juvenile: Very similar to adult, except upperparts brownish-olive, with feathers edged in buff, giving scalloped appearance; wing-bars dark buff; underparts with olive wash on breast.
Song: An explosive, high, spit a KEET, or an emphatic PEET-sah, usually accented on first syllable. More variable song composed of these phrases may be heard at dawn.
Calls: Most common call is a high pweest, like a squeeze-toy; occasionally also a low, slurred wheeew. Also gives a flicker-like ti ti ti ti ti.
Often found perched in deep shade, less than 20 feet (6 meters) from the ground, and well beneath the canopy of foliage. Similar to other flycatchers, sallies and hovers at foliage for insects often from a shaded perch near the nest; occasionally gleans insects and berries from bushes.
Mostly flies, also mosquitoes, small moths, flying ants and small beetles. Also known to eat berries such as blackberries and raspberries. .
Behavior and displays
Nest site: Site selected by female, tree species used include beech, dogwood, and witch-hazel, but also nests in oak, hickory, maple, basswood, cherry, red pine, white pine, Norway spruce, box elder, common buckthorn, American elm, and white mulberry. The nest is usually placed on a fork of a horizontal branch well away from the main trunk, often over water, a ravine, or other clearing. Occasionally nests from previous years are re-used.
Height: Ranges from 630 feet (29 meters).
Nest: A frail, saucer-shaped, shallow basket is built by the female and consists of fine, dry plant stems, plant fibers, tendrils, catkins, Spanish moss (in south), and swung hammock-like between horizontal twigs of a slender limb. Invariably long streamers of dried grass, grapevine, fibrous material hang below nest 12 feet (0.30.6 meters), giving it misleading trashy appearance from below. Cup is lined with grass stems, fine rootlets, plant down, spider webs.
Eggs: 24, usually 3, buffy eggs.
Incubation period: Female incubates 1314 days; male rarely feeds incubating female.
Nestling period: Young are altricial and downy; skin pinkish; down sparse and white. Both parents tend to young; female broods. Nestlings fledge at 1315 days.
Fledgling period: After leaving nest, fledglings are fed by parents for about 12 days. Fledglings fed only by male when female begins incubating second clutch.
Broods: Often double brooded, except at northern edge of range.
Cowbird Parasitism: Common host of Brown-headed Cowbird.