Living Bird Magazine
Alder FlycatcherEmpidonax alnorum
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
A flycatcher of wet thickets across northern North America, the Alder Flycatcher is a rather indistinct olive-green bird with bold wingbars and a distinctive, raspy song of free-beer! It’s unusual among Empidonax flycatchers for having only an indistinct pale eyering, a trait it shares with the very similar Willow Flycatcher. Alder Flycatchers thrive in open settings such as bogs and beaver ponds, where they sit on high perches and fly out to catch insects from nearby leaves or in midair.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In the breeding season, visit wet bogs and listen for this species’ raspy, somewhat phoebe-like two-parted song. Alder Flycatchers look so similar to Willow Flycatchers that it’s very difficult to separate them except by range (in the breeding season) or voice. Alder Flycatchers generally breed farther north than Willow, and where their summer range dips south along the high ridges of the Appalachians they tend to segregate by elevation, with Alders taking the higher ground. During fall migration, however, it’s often best to leave quiet birds unidentified.
- Mosquero Alisero (Spanish)
- Moucherolle des aulnes (French)
- Cool Facts
- For decades, Willow and Alder Flycatchers were more or less hiding in plain sight, considered to be a single species called Traill’s Flycatcher despite their very different songs. It wasn’t until 1973 that the two were formally “split” into two species.
- Even though they look nearly identical, Alder and Willow Flycatchers do not respond when they hear each other’s songs.
- Alder Flycatchers were part of an experiment in song learning in which young Alder Flycatchers were “tutored” with Willow Flycatcher songs during their first two months of life. The next spring, however, they sang normal Alder Flycatcher songs instead of the songs they had heard as chicks.
- The Alder Flycatcher breeds farther north than any other member of the tyrant flycatcher family (Tyrannidae). It nests as far north as the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.
- The oldest known Alder Flycatcher was over 9 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased at a banding station in British Columbia.