Living Bird Magazine
Least FlycatcherEmpidonax minimus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
Least Flycatchers are one of the grayish olive flycatchers in the often confusing Empidonax group, but they're one of the easier ones to identify. Their small size, bold white eyering, and distinctive chebec song set them apart. During the summer, they congregate in clusters in deciduous forests and sing incessantly. They may be little, but they don't let other birds push them around, sometimes chasing species as large as Blue Jays. Though they are common, they lost more than half of their population since 1970.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Least Flycatchers make their presence known with their incessant chebecs during the breeding season. To find them, take a walk in a deciduous forest in the northern U.S. and Canada, and listen for their very short 2-note song. Don't be alarmed if you don't hear them right away; they nest in clusters so there might be stretches of forest without any Least Flycatchers. But once you come across a cluster, there will likely be several about. They generally catch insects from branches in the middle to upper levels of the forest and frequently change perches, so look up for quick movements. On migration, these flycatchers may be silent and hard to tell from other Empidonax—look for their small size and bold eyering.
- Mosquero Mínimo (Spanish)
- Moucherolle tchébec (French)
Least Flycatchers aren't your typical backyard breeder, but they may stop by your yard during migration. Learn how to provide migration habitat for these and other migrants by visiting Habitat Network.
Learn more about creating a forest patch for Least Flycatchers and other birds at Habitat Network.
- Cool Facts
- Least Flycatchers don't waste any time on the breeding grounds. It takes them about 58 days to find a mate, build a nest, lay eggs, and raise their young from nestlings to independence, and they only spend about 64 days in their summer homes. That doesn’t leave them much free time.
- Many passerines grow new feathers on the breeding grounds after nesting, but some flycatchers wait until they get to their wintering grounds. Least Flycatchers wait until they arrive in Mexico and Central America in mid-August through early September to start growing new feathers.
- Least Flycatchers travel between 60 and 72 miles per day to reach their wintering grounds, a journey that takes them about 25 days.
- One Least Flycatcher nest was found to have used dragonfly wings as nest lining.
- The oldest recorded Least Flycatcher was at least 8 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Virginia in 1985. It had been banded in the same state in 1977.