Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Acadian Flycatcher

Empidonax virescens

In southern woods in summer, the short explosive song of the Acadian Flycatcher comes from shady spots along streams or near swamps. This is the only member of the confusing Empidonax group to nest in most parts of the deep south. Its range extends north to the Great Lakes and southern New England, and it has been gradually expanding this range toward the north.
Conservation status Would be vulnerable to loss of habitat, but no significant decline noted so far. In some regions, Brown-headed Cowbirds often lay eggs in nests of this species.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Deciduous forests, ravines, swampy woods, beech groves. Breeds mostly in wet deciduous forest, such as in swamps or dense riverside woods; also in the understory of drier woods. Often nests in beech trees where they occur. Winters in the tropics in woodland or along its edges.
In southern woods in summer, the short explosive song of the Acadian Flycatcher comes from shady spots along streams or near swamps. This is the only member of the confusing Empidonax group to nest in most parts of the deep south. Its range extends north to the Great Lakes and southern New England, and it has been gradually expanding this range toward the north.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult and nestlings
Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch, usually at mid levels within the forest, and then flying out to catch insects in the air. Also takes some food (such as caterpillars and spiders) from foliage or twigs while hovering.


Eggs

3, sometimes 2-4. Creamy white, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by female, 13-15 days. Young: Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 13-15 days. Male may continue to feed fledglings from first nest while female begins incubating the second clutch of the season.


Young

Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 13-15 days. Male may continue to feed fledglings from first nest while female begins incubating the second clutch of the season.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, especially wasps, bees, ants, caterpillars, and beetles, also flies, moths, true bugs, and others. Also eats some spiders, millipedes, and some small fruits and berries.


Nesting

Courtship displays involve rapid aerial chases through the trees; male may hover above female when she stops to perch. Nest site is in tree or large shrub, usually deciduous, averaging 13' above ground, sometimes 4-50' up. Usually suspended within horizontal fork of branch well out from trunk. Nest (built by female) is a rather loosely made cup of weed stems, twigs, grass, and other plant fibers, sometimes lined with finer materials such as rootlets and plant down. Webs of spiders and caterpillars probably help to hold nest together. Usually has trailing strands of weeds or other materials hanging below, giving nest a sloppy or abandoned appearance.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Unlike other Empidonax flycatchers, the Acadian regularly migrates north across the Gulf of Mexico in spring. Most migration is at night.

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Migration

Unlike other Empidonax flycatchers, the Acadian regularly migrates north across the Gulf of Mexico in spring. Most migration is at night.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
An emphatic 2-note flee-see or peet-seet! with the second syllable accented and higher pitched, uttered on the breeding grounds and occasionally on migration.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.