Living Bird Magazine
Living Bird Magazine
Dusky FlycatcherEmpidonax oberholseri
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Tyrannidae
In mountains and foothills of western North America, Dusky Flycatchers are unobtrusive little songbirds of open coniferous woodlands, aspen groves, chaparral, and scrubby or streamside thickets. Olive-gray above, with a bold eyering and two wingbars, Dusky wears the classic markings of an Empidonax flycatcher and can be hard to distinguish from other species. Dusky Flycatchers forage for flying insects but stay fairly low in the vegetation, frequently giving a short, sharp wit call.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Finding just the right brushy habitat for Dusky Flycatchers can take some trial and error. Listen for singing males in late May to early June, and be familiar with the subtle differences between Dusky and Hammond’s Flycatcher songs. Hammond’s tends to use higher perches in mature forests, but can sometimes be found right next to Dusky’s shrubbier habitats. Dusky Flycatchers often have favorite perches for hunting, but these are sometimes obscured by vegetation, so be prepared to listen and look carefully.
- Mosquero Oscuro (Spanish)
- Moucherolle sombre (French)
- Cool Facts
- Dusky and Hammond's Flycatchers are so similar that telling them apart is a true challenge. Color and pattern do not help. Even the voices, usually the most helpful character in distinguishing Empidonax flycatchers, are quite similar. In the field, birders use “primary projection” to distinguish the two species visually: the tips of the primary feathers that stick out past the innermost flight feathers (tertials) are rather short and stubby in Dusky Flycatcher, notably longer, narrower, or pointier in Hammond’s.
- Dusky Flycatcher is one of a handful of songbird species that may benefit from habitat disturbance, including certain types of logging. Although their shrubby breeding habitat can increase in such situations, they may also become more vulnerable to parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds, which also move into newly cleared areas.
- The oldest recorded Dusky Flycatcher was a female, and at least 8 years, 2 months old when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California.