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Dusky-capped Flycatcher Life History


ForestsIn the United States, Dusky-capped Flycatchers breed in habitats stretching from riparian areas dominated by Arizona sycamore and Fremont cottonwood through oak woodlands and into pine-oak forests of mountains, usually below 6,000 feet. Velvet ash, desert willow, Arizona walnut, Emory oak, Arizona white oak, Arizona blue oak, Apache pine, Chihuahua pine, alligator juniper, southwestern chokecherry, and bigtooth maple are some of the common tree species in these habitats. Dusky-capped Flycatchers use similar habitats during migration and seldom appear below 4,000 feet elevation. In Mexico, Central America, and South America, this species also lives in riparian, pine-oak, and oak forests as well as thorn forests and tropical deciduous forests, up to elevations as high as 11,200 feet. Back to top


Insects Dusky-capped Flycatchers eat mostly insects and berries. They forage at all levels in the trees, from just a few feet off the ground to near the treetops, but they often remain inside the vegetation rather than perching in the open. Dusky-capped Flycatchers capture insects in flight with the bill; they also fly out from a perch and glean insects from vegetation while briefly hovering. They change perches frequently as they search for resting insects within the interior of a tree, then move to the next tree. Most of their sallies to catch insects are short, not the long flights of kingbirds or Olive-sided Flycatchers. They also take insects from the ground, usually dropping from a low perch to capture them, then returning to the perch to consume. On wintering grounds, Dusky-capped Flycatchers frequently join mixed-species flocks that include warblers, kinglets, and other woodland birds. Prey includes spiders, flies, snipe-flies, mayflies, moths, butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, cicadas, ants, bees, wasps, bugs, assassin bugs, treehoppers, leafhoppers, spittle bugs, leaf-footed bugs, termites, antlions, woodborers, weevils, and various other beetles. They also take small berries and small seeds. Back to top


Nest Placement


Like other Myiarchus flycatchers they nest in cavities, often in woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities, and they also use nest boxes when provided.

Nest Description

The interior cup of the nest is about 3 inches across and 2 inches deep. Nests are a mixture of mosses, grasses, weeds, straw, leaves, bark strips, seed fluff, vines, cotton, lizard skins, snakeskins, feathers, fur, hair, and even owl pellets, spider eggs, and pine cones.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:0.7-0.9 in (1.8-2.2 cm)
Egg Width:0.6-0.6 in (1.4-1.6 cm)
Incubation Period:13-15 days
Nestling Period:13-14 days
Egg Description:Creamy white, marked with brown, purple, and olive.
Condition at Hatching:Hatchlings are naked and helpless.
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FlycatchingDusky-capped Flycatchers form pairs soon after returning to their nesting grounds in spring. Males call excitedly and chase females early in the nesting cycle. They are otherwise rather placid birds, less territorial than Ash-throated or Brown-crested Flycatchers. They also readily share feeding areas with other species of flycatchers and other birds on the wintering grounds, though in mixed-species flocks, there is seldom more than one Dusky-capped present. Females incubate the eggs, and both male and female feed the nestlings. The family may remain together for several weeks after the young fledge.Back to top


Low Concern

The Dusky-capped Flycatcher is a common bird through most of its large range, but population trends are not known. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 20 million and rates the species a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. The scarcity of their favored habitats in the United States makes them locally vulnerable to habitat loss resulting from fires, logging, grazing, mining, and water diversion.

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

Patrick, K. L. and J. R. Sauer. (1999). The 1998-1999 summary of the North American breeding bird survey. Bird Populations 5:3048.

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

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Learn more at Birds of the World