Western Flycatcher Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A slim, small songbird with an upright posture, a large head that often looks peaked, and a straight, fairly wide bill. The tail is moderately long.

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and smaller than a Say’s Phoebe.

    Relative Sizesparrow or smallersparrow-sized or smaller
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
      • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (8-13 g)
      • Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)

Regional Differences

From 1989 to 2023 the Western Flycatcher was treated as two species, Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Cordilleran Flycatcher, and these are now treated as subspecies groups. The "Pacific-slope" group breeds mainly in coastal mountain ranges from southeastern Alaska to Baja California, while the "Cordilleran" group breeds primarily in the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre, from southwestern Canada to southern Mexico. These two groups are extremely difficult to distinguish from each other, even in their core ranges—the songs and calls of males are the best way to do so. Where the two groups come together across a broad area in southwestern Canada and the northwestern United States, it is impossible to tell them apart—the birds in this area are intergrades that do not show any consistent physical, vocal, or genetic differences.

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