Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Empid! Oh-No! - 24 Aug 2014
Normally, these birds are easy to ID if you can hear them sing: Least Flycatcher (Che-bek!), Acadian Flycatcher (Pit-sEE!), Alder Flycatcher (Vre-bee!), Willow Flycatcher (Fitz-bew!), and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (j'-biit!). Its a different story, however, when they are silent. But I was determined that I would ID the bird from the photos. So off to hit the books.
Normally, I'd hit the Pyle Guides first, but its more useful if the bird is in hand. So I reached for Kenn Kaufman's Field Guide to Advanced Birding, hoping that he had a chapter on the Empidonax flycatchers. He does! I'll say it right here, put all of the 'field' guides away, this is the one book to have on your shelf. What a great read.
The first thing I noticed about my bird was the wing bars, so that eliminates Eastern Phoebe, which are normally more sooty-looking this time of year w/ darker cap and white throat transitioning to pale yellow belly (and no wing bars). But the lack of a distinct eye-ring is suggestive of Eastern Wood-Pewee, yes?
We can probably eliminate ALL of the western flycatchers: Cordilleran, Gray, Buff-breasted, Pacific-slope, Dusky, and Hammond's based on geography. Of the eastern flycatchers I'll also eliminate Yellow-bellied (based on the overall 'pale-gray' appearance), and Acadian (partly geography, but they tend to be greenish and show longer wing projection and thicker, stouter bill) flycatchers. That leaves the big three for this area: Least, Willow and Alder Flycatchers (the latter two formerly lumped as Traill's Flycatchers).
The eye-ring is less distinctive than I expect, however, but I've seen many photos of Least Flycatchers lacking a distinct eye-ring, so I'm hoping that this bird is not too out of the norm.
As always, I'd love some feedback, and would gratefully accept another lesson in bird ID. I'm pitiful...
I've gotten a number of responses from folks who've read this blog and, although some have agreed with my conclusions, the consensus is that the bird is most possibly a Traill's Flycatcher, and that I should leave it at that...