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Ash-throated Flycatcher Life History


Open WoodlandsThe Ash-throated Flycatcher lives in dry scrub, open woodlands, and deserts in the West from sea level to about 9,000 feet elevation. In this habitat, typical tree and shrub species include oak, juniper, pinyon pine, Joshua tree, yucca, palo verde, mesquite, acacia, and ironwood. As a cavity-nesting bird, Ash-throated Flycatchers need habitat with standing dead trees with natural cavities or those created by woodpeckers. During the nonbreeding season, they use similar habitats in Mexico and along the Pacific coast to Honduras, but they also use parks, woodlots, hedgerows, suburban areas, dry subtropical forest scrub, and dry deciduous tropical forest. Back to top


InsectsAsh-throated Flycatchers primarily eat spiders and insects such as wasps, bees, bugs, tree hoppers, stink bugs, moths, caterpillars, flies, including larvae. When available they also supplement their diet with small fruits from cardon, saguaro, and mistletoe. They often forage lower to the ground and in relatively open habitats. They hunt insects by flying up from perches to catch them in midair, or by grabbing them while they slowly moving from perch to perch scanning for prey on leaves and twigs. Back to top


Nest Placement

CavityAsh-throated Flycatchers are secondary cavity nesters, meaning that they rely on nest holes originally made by other species, such as woodpeckers, or they use naturally occurring cavities in standing dead trees. They also nest in artificial cavities of all sorts including nest boxes, fence posts, metal posts, mailboxes, metal guy-wire frames, and other structures. Nest height varies considerably and can be as much as 70 feet high. Pairs may occasionally reuse the cavity in subsequent years.

Nest Description

The female presumably builds the nest. She fashions twigs, rootlets, grass, pieces of cow manure, and strips of bark into a cup-shaped nest that she then lines with hair, fur, feathers, or cotton. Nest construction takes 1–7 days, depending on the size of the cavity selected.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-7 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.8-1.0 in (2-2.5 cm)
Egg Width:0.6-0.7 in (1.5-1.8 cm)
Incubation Period:14-16 days
Nestling Period:13-17 days
Egg Description:Creamy white with reddish brown streaks and elongated blotches.
Condition at Hatching:Naked with a few tufts of down. Eyes closed.
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FlycatchingAsh-throated Flycatchers forage in the lower levels of trees and shrubs. They sally out and back from perches to pick prey from foliage or off the ground. They also search for insects by slowly moving from perch to perch. Like other Myiarchus flycatchers, they tend to lean forward on their perches and move their heads up and down, especially when agitated. When temperatures rise, they perch in the shade or hold their folded wings away from their body. Even though they live in hot climates, apparently they do not drink water; instead they obtain it all from the food they eat. Ash-throated Flycatchers are possessive when it comes to nesting cavities. They evict other cavity-nesting species such as Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Bewick’s Wrens, Mountain Bluebirds, and Northern Flickers. But they are not successful against every species; sometimes they lose their nesting hole to European Starlings, Western Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows. Back to top


Low Concern

Ash-throated Flycatchers are common throughout arid regions of the West and populations increased by approximately 0.7% per year between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 10 million and rates them 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. The species' use of artificial structures may have offset the loss of natural nest sites by development and may be responsible for an increase in numbers.

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Butler, L. K., S. Rohwer and M. Rogers. (2006). Prebasic molt and molt-related movements in Ash-throated Flycatchers. Condor 108 (3):647-660.

Cardiff, Steven W. and Donna L. Dittmann. (2002). Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Francis, C. D., C. P. Ortega and A. Cruz. (2011b). Vocal frequency change reflects different responses to anthropogenic noise in two suboscine tyrant flycatchers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 278 (1714):2025-2031.

Karlson, Kevin and D Rosselet. (2015). Birding by Impression. Living Bird 25:34-42.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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