Living Bird Magazine
Pacific-slope FlycatcherEmpidonax difficilis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
An attractive small flycatcher that looks like several other attractive small flycatchers in the genus Empidonax, the Pacific-slope Flycatcher breeds in forests and mountains along the West Coast. It’s a soft greenish brown bird with a bold eyering and two white wingbars, complemented by a bright yellow wash below. The closely related Cordilleran Flycatcher lives in similar habitats in interior western North America—the two were considered the same species, called “Western Flycatcher,” until 1989. Females disguise their nests with moss and lichen, stuck on with bits of spiderweb.More ID Info
Find This Bird
As with many Empidonax flycatchers, voice is the best way to find and identify Pacific-slope Flycatchers. Listen for the male’s sharp song and rising call note, given frequently during the first few weeks of nesting. During the breeding season, and also during migration in April and September, a streamside hike through a wooded canyon has a good chance of turning up a Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Concentrate especially on spots where bug-filled gaps in the forest canopy make for good flycatching.
- Mosquero del Pacífico (Spanish)
- Moucherolle côtier (French)
- Cool Facts
- The species name of the Pacific-slope Flycatcher, difficilis, is appropriate. It means "difficult," and this species is extremely difficult to distinguish from the similar Cordilleran Flycatcher.
- In parts of the interior Northwest, Pacific-slope Flycatchers sometimes hybridize with Cordilleran Flycatchers where their ranges meet. In this region, vocalizations also vary and can be difficult to ascribe to one species or the other.
- The population of Pacific-slope Flycatchers breeding on the Channel Islands off southern California may actually be a distinct species. It is larger than mainland populations, has a longer bill, a paler chest, slightly different vocalizations, and differs genetically.
- The oldest Pacific-slope Flycatcher on record was one banded in California as a hatch-year bird in 1992 that was recovered in Oregon in 1999, when it was about 6 years, 11 months old.