All flycatchers in the genus Myiarchus share the Great Crested Flycatcher’s yellow underparts, short crest, and rufous-brown accents in the wing and tail. Fortunately for identifcations, Great Crested Flycatchers do not overlap with other Myiarchus species over most of their breeding range. The Brown-crested Flycatcher of South Texas and farther south has a slightly longer bill than Great Crested. It also has a paler and more-extensive gray chest that does not contrast as strongly with its paler-yellow belly. The tail, when seen from below, is less extensively rufous-orange than the Great Crested’s tail, with more brown on the sides of the tail. The Ash-throated Flycatcher, which breeds in central Texas and westward, is smaller and paler overall than Great Crested. The bill is shorter and thinner; it is paler gary on the head and chest, and paler yellow on the belly than Great Crested. Other common Eastern flycatchers, such as Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Wood-Pewees, are more olive-green on the back and much whiter underparts. In late summer and fall, young Eastern Phoebes can have an extensive wash of yellow on the belly, inviting comparison to Great Crested. However, their heads are dark with contrasting white throats, and both wings and tail lack any suggestion of rufous or orange.
Like other birds that nest in cavities, Great Crested Flycatchers sometimes have trouble finding nest sites in places where tree holes are scarce. They quite readily take to nest boxes. For best results, mount a hanging or swinging nest box roughly 12 to 20 feet above the ground, in an open woodland with clear flight paths to the box opening. Visit our Nest Watch website for more suggestions and plans to make a Great Crested Flycatcher nest box.
Find This Bird
Great Crested Flycatcher are common, large, brightly colored flycatchers—but they spend much of their day very high in the leafy canopy of deciduous woods. If you live within their summer range, listen for this species’ loud, rising whistle before you try and track one down. Listen for them at forest edges as well as in city parks, golf courses, and tree-lined neighborhoods. Once you learn their distinctive call, you’ll gain an appreciation for how common and widespread they are and you can then start watching for the birds sitting on high, exposed perches or making fast flights after insect prey.