Birds in Forested Landscapes
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Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)
Distribution

Breeding: From Acadian Flycatcher mapsoutheastern South Dakota east across southern Great Lakes region to southern New England, south to southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and central Florida, west to central Kansas; in Canada, restricted to southwestern Ontario. The highest nesting densities are in the Cumberland Plateau and in Virginia and West Virginia.

Winter: Central and northern South America, specifically on Caribbean slope of Nicaragua, both slopes of Costa Rica and Panama, northern and western Colombia, northern Venezuela, and western Ecuador.


 

Breeding habitat

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.

Conservation status

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.

Description

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.

Vocalizations

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.

Foraging strategy

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.

Diet

Mostly flies, also mosquitoes, small moths, flying ants and small beetles. Also known to eat berries such as blackberries and raspberries. .

Behavior and displays

Generally very inconspicuous bird, must be sought for to be seen.

More lethargic than other Empidonax flycatchers, doing very little flicking of the wings or tail except when excited. Often perches with the wings somewhat drooped.

• When the birds are building nests or incubating their eggs they are always extremely shy, and leave the nest long before a person has approached within twenty-five yards of its location.

Courtship

Courtship mostly of erratic, swift chases; male often hovers above perched female.

Nesting

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 6–30 feet (2–9 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 1–2 feet (0.3–0.6 meters), giving it misleading trashy appearance from below. Cup is lined with grass stems, fine rootlets, plant down, spider webs.

Eggs: 2–4, usually 3, buffy eggs.

Incubation period: Female incubates 13–14 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 13–15 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.

Notes

  • The only Empidonax in the southeastern lowlands in summer.

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