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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Flycatchers of the Southwest: Buff-breasted and Dusky-capped Flycatchers plus a Tyrannulet

[April 2016. Tucson area]

"Suum cuique" -- an ancient Latin saying that means "to each his own"; indeed, where could this be more applicable than in the realm of birding? Some birders are confirmed warblerholics; others are shorebird maniacs; others still have made the icterids their lifelong passion. In this post, however, we provide avian fodder for those whose obsession is that of the flycatcher persuasion.

Tyrant flycatchers are a fascinating family. Although they pale in photogenic significance compared to our more colorful warblers, buntings, and tanagers, they possess an oversized character and personality that has captivated many a birder.

And while the Eastern US has its share of Kingbirds, Phoebes and Pewees, the most interesting flycatchers in the country are found in the Southwest -- specifically, Southeastern Arizona (SEAZ). 

Indeed, a quick Spring visit to the Tucson area offered up an eclectic mix of species headlined by the specialty flycatchers of the area:
  • Buff-bellied Flycatcher
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
  • Western Wood Pewee
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Lesser Nighthawk
  • Hutton's Vireo
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
We start with the spectacular Buff-bellied Flycatcher -- this is the most distinctive empidonax flycatcher in the US and at the top of every flycatcher-aficionado's wishlist. 

This beautiful flycatcher was seen at Rose Canyon on Mt. Lemmon where it may be reliably found.

Like the Buff-breasted Flycatcher, the Dusky-capped Flycatcher is also an Arizona specialty.

This shaggy-crested tyrant is found from Argentina to S. Arizona. This spectacular specimen was seen at Madera Canyon.

Ash-throated Flycatcher is widely found in the West:

The Northern Beardless Tyrannulet is a must-see for those in SEAZ:


This is a tiny flycatcher but a highly energetic vocalizer.

The name "Northern Beardless Tyrannulet" means a small tyrant flycatcher without rictal bristles (hence "beardless"). This exciting flycatcher was observed in Sabino Canyon.
Perhaps the most "ordinary" flycatcher observed was this Western Wood Pewee seen at Rose Canyon:

In addition to the flycatchers, other species observed were:

Cooper's Hawk:

This beautiful raptor was observed with a recently deceased Rufous-crowned Sparrow in its talons.

Repeated calling from the adult resulted in the arrival of the juvenile above. Both these hawks were observed at Molino Basin on Mt. Lemmon.

Over at Sweetwater Wetlands, this blogger came to see the spectacle of a swarm of Lesser Nighthawks hawking for insects over the water:

Attempting photographic capture of erratic-flying nighthawks in near darkness is an exercise in futility as can be seen from the results.

Finally, a trio of species seen on Mt. Lemmon: 
Hutton's Vireo:

White-breasted Nuthatch:

And, where else but Southeastern Arizona can you observe 3 species of Gnatchatcher? (Blue-grey, Black-tailed and Black-capped; the former observed here):

Each of the various families of birds found in the US are delightful in their own right. And while flashy warblers and tanagers may steal the spotlight because of their avian charisma, the flycatcher family offers some fascinating species that will enthrall the intrepid birder and there is no better place than Southeastern Arizona to observe them.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

A wonderful collection of species and images that I hope to ultimately find and emulate, Hemant. I have begun doing research on an appropriate lens for landscape photography while the birds are few and far between in the fall and winter months.