Living Bird Magazine
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Willow Flycatchers are drab brownish-olive birds that are best known for their voice—a sneezy fitz-bew that emanates from wet willow thickets across North America. They’re one of the infamous Empidonax flycatchers, a name virtually synonymous with difficult ID. Look for them singing their distinctive song on top of willows and other shrubs in early summer just after they arrive from Central and South America where they spend the winter. Although they’re common across the United States, the Southwestern subspecies is federally endangered.More ID Info
The best time to go looking for a Willow Flycatcher is late May through June, shortly after they arrive on the breeding grounds and when singing is at its peak. Look for them in wet meadows, perching on top of or low at the edges of willows and other shrubs. Males tend to sit and sing from the same spot, so you'll have time to zero in on their location. It is possible to see them outside of the breeding season, but they can be much harder to identify if they are not singing. If you see a silent flycatcher during migration, the timing of your sighting can help narrow down your choices—Willow Flycatchers tend to arrive later in the spring than other Empidonax flycatchers.
Willow Flycatchers aren't your typical backyard bird, but they may stop by your yard during migration. Learn how to provide migration habitat for these and other migrants by visiting Habitat Network.