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Ash-throated Flycatcher

Myiarchus cinerascens ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TYRANNIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

With its pale lemon belly and cinnamon tail, the Ash-throated Flycatcher is reminiscent of a desert just before sunset. Its subtle hues help it blend into its surroundings, but notes sputter out of its mouth all morning long, giving away its location. This genteel flycatcher tips its head side to side with seeming curiosity while perched among low oaks and mesquite trees. It is a die-hard bird of dry places that doesn't need to drink water; it gets all it needs from the insects and spiders it eats.

Keys to identification Help

Flycatchers
Flycatchers
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    This medium-sized flycatcher is long and slender with a long tail. Its head is slightly peaked at the back, making it look rather large headed for its size. It has a medium-sized bill that is thicker than phoebes and Empidonax flycatchers, but smaller than kingbirds.

  • Color Pattern

    Ash-throated Flycatchers are grayish brown overall with a pale yellow belly and cinnamon edges on the primary feathers in the wing. The underside of the tail has a broad stroke of cinnamon down the center bordered by brownish gray. The cinnamon stripe does not reach the tip of the tail; the tip of the tail is brownish gray. Two whitish wingbars mark the wings. The head and face is uniformly ashy gray with a whitish throat. Males and females look similar.

  • Behavior

    Like other flycatchers in the Myiarchus genus, these birds tend to lean forward on perches and move their heads up and down, especially when agitated. They also tip their heads side to side while looking around from a perch. Ash-throated Flycatchers spend most of their time at eye level, sallying out from low perches in trees and shrubs to nab an insect or two.

  • Habitat

    The Ash-throated Flycatcher occupies dry scrub, open woodlands, and deserts in the West. They usually avoid humid forested areas, but do occur in woodlands along streams in dry regions.

Range Map Help

Ash-throated Flycatcher Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Ash-throated Flycatcher

    Adult
    • Medium-sized slender flycatcher with a long tail
    • Slightly peaked head
    • Pale yellow belly
    • Cinnamon edges on primary feathers
    • Broad stroke of cinnamon under the tail bordered by brownish gray
    • Uniformly ashy gray face
    • Whitish throat
    • © Lois Manowitz, Tucson, Arizona, May 2010
  • Adult

    Ash-throated Flycatcher

    Adult
    • Medium-sized slender flycatcher with a long tail
    • Slightly peaked head
    • Pale yellow belly
    • Cinnamon edges on primary feathers
    • Uniformly ashy gray face
    • Whitish throat
    • Broad stroke of cinnamon under the tail bordered by brownish gray
    • © Ned Harris, Tucson, Arizona, May 2010
  • Adult

    Ash-throated Flycatcher

    Adult
    • Medium-sized slender flycatcher with a long tail
    • Slightly peaked head
    • Pale yellow belly
    • Cinnamon edges on primary feathers
    • Uniformly ashy gray face
    • Whitish throat
    • © Stephen Ramirez, Texas, March 2010
  • Adult

    Ash-throated Flycatcher

    Adult
    • Medium-sized slender flycatcher with a long tail
    • Slightly peaked head
    • Pale yellow belly
    • Cinnamon edges on primary feathers
    • Uniformly ashy gray face
    • Whitish throat
    • © Steve Zamek, San Francisco, California, May 2012

Similar Species

Similar Species

To separate flycatchers in the Myiarchus genus, pay attention to tail pattern, voice, plumage brightness, bill size, and subtleties in cap or head color. Range is also an important factor to consider that will reduce the number of similar species to consider. Dusky-capped Flycatcher and Brown-crested Flycatcher overlap with Ash-throated Flycatchers in the Southwest. Dusky-capped Flycatchers have a dark tail with little or no rufous, a brighter yellow belly than Ash-throated, and a darker gray cap, head, and throat. Dusky-capped also has a unique call that is more slurred and less abrupt than that of Ash-throated Flycatchers. The inner tail feathers of Brown-crested Flycatchers show a thinner rufous stripe than in Ash-throated Flycatchers, and the outer tail feathers are brownish gray. Also, the rufous stripe in the center of the Brown-crested’s tail extends to the tip, while in Ash-throated Flycatchers the tail tip is bordered by grayish brown. Brown-crested Flycatchers have a larger and thicker bill than Ash-throated. Great Crested Flycatcher overlaps with Ash-throated Flycatcher in Texas and is most easily distinguished from Ash-throated by voice, a brighter yellow belly, extensive rufous in the tail, a darker grayish brown head, and a larger bill. Myiarchus flycatchers tend to stray out of their normal range, so although rare, you never know where one might show up. Nutting’s Flycatchers are rare winter vagrants in the Southwest where they could overlap with Ash-throated. Nutting’s Flycatchers have pale cinnamon edging to the secondaries, while the secondaries on Ash-throated are whitish which contrast with the rufous edging on the primaries. La Sagra’s Flycatcher is a rare vagrant in Florida and generally does not overlap with Ash-throated Flycatcher.

Backyard Tips

Ash-throated Flycatchers nest in many kinds of cavities and may even nest in your yard if you put up a nest box for them before breeding season. Head on over to NestWatch to download construction plans to build your very own Ash-throated Flycatcher nest box.

You can provide foraging habitat for Ash-throated Flycatchers and other birds by creating a bird-friendly yard. Learn how at Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

The trick to finding an Ash-throated Flycatcher is to listen for its distinctive ka-brick call in dry, open woodlands and scrub. Heading out early in the morning will increase your chances of finding one, as they, like other desert dwellers, tend to quiet down as soon as the sun starts heating things up. They often call from the tops of low trees or shrubs while looking around, tipping their heads side to side in curiosity. When you are out looking for them, don’t ignore sparsely vegetated areas as they can also turn up in deserts with little vegetation; all they need is a place to build their nest. The other trick to finding an Ash-throated Flycatcher especially in the Southwest is to make sure you know what to look for, because other species can look similar. Myiarchus flycatchers like the Ash-throated are larger and have a peaked head unlike the Empidonax flycatchers. They are also larger and slimmer than phoebes. Many of the similar looking Myiarchus flycatchers do not call during the nonbreeding season, which can make identification tricky, but Ash-throateds are the most common and widespread Myiarchus flycatcher in the region where they are found.

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