Living Bird Magazine
Ash-throated FlycatcherMyiarchus cinerascens
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Copetón Cenizo (Spanish)
- Tyran à gorge cendrée (French)
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.
- Cool Facts
- Like many other desert animals such as the kangaroo rat, Ash-throated Flycatchers don’t need to drink water. Instead they get it all from the food they eat.
- Growing new feathers is energetically costly. That might be why Ash-throated Flycatchers make a so-called “molt migration” after breeding to areas in Mexico that are flush with insects. The plentiful food provides energy and nutrients for the flycatchers’ growing feathers. Unlike some eastern migrants, Ash-throated Flycatchers take more than a month to grow new feathers.
- Ash-throated Flycatchers are secondary cavity nesters and they are good at finding places to put their nests—even unusual locations including pipes, fence posts, and clothes hanging on a line.
- Unlike most members of its genus, the Ash-throated Flycatcher only occasionally uses snakeskin in its nest. Only 5% of nests examined contained reptile skin, but 98% had mammal hair. Rabbit fur was the most frequently used.
- Everyone likes to be heard and that may go for birds as well. Researchers examined how loud birds sang in different environments. They found that in noisy environments some birds sang louder or changed their pitch to be heard over the noise, while other birds left the area altogether. In their experiments, Ash-throated Flycatchers in noisy environments sang at a slightly higher pitch than birds not subjected to increased noise.
- The oldest recorded Ash-throated Flycatcher was just under 12 years old, when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in California in 2008. It had been banded in the same state in 1997.
- The Ash-throated Flycatcher is a rare but regular vagrant to the East Coast. Individuals turn up nearly every year across the U.S. and they have been found in all coastal states and provinces. See where they have been seen at eBird.