Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Empidonax occidentalis

Among the look-alike Empidonax flycatchers, the two most difficult to tell apart are this species and the Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Males usually can be recognized by their callnotes, but females can hardly be identified at all except by their ranges in summer. They were regarded as one species (under the name "Western Flycatcher") until the late 1980s, and differences between them are still poorly understood.
Conservation status Could be affected by cutting of forests in the west; however, still widespread and common.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Moist woods, forests, shady canyons. Breeds in forested regions, mostly in the mountains, and mostly in deciduous growth along streams through mixed or coniferous forest. Often forages in conifers such as pines or Douglas-firs, but not common in purely coniferous forest. May tend to be in slightly drier or more open forest than Pacific-slope Flycatcher.
Among the look-alike Empidonax flycatchers, the two most difficult to tell apart are this species and the Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Males usually can be recognized by their callnotes, but females can hardly be identified at all except by their ranges in summer. They were regarded as one species (under the name "Western Flycatcher") until the late 1980s, and differences between them are still poorly understood.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch and then flying out to catch insects in the air. Also takes some food from foliage or twigs while hovering. Often forages quite high among the branches of tall conifers, but will also feed low, especially among streamside trees.


Eggs

3-4, rarely 5. Whitish, with brown blotches concentrated near larger end. Incubation is by female only, about 14-15 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight probably about 14-18 days.


Young

Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight probably about 14-18 days.

Diet

Mostly insects. Differences in diet between this bird and Pacific-slope Flycatcher poorly known. For the two species combined, diet is mostly insects, including small wasps, bees, flies, caterpillars, moths, beetles, and others. Also eats spiders, and a few berries and seeds.


Nesting

Differences in nesting (if any) between this species and Pacific-slope Flycatcher are poorly known. Nest site is sometimes in the fork of a small tree, but usually in other situations: in a cleft of a vertical streambank, on a stump, among the upturned roots of a fallen tree, under a small bridge, or on rafters in a shed. Natural sites are usually near (or on) the ground, but on artificial structures the nest may be more than 10' up. Nest (built by female) is cup of moss, grass, rootlets, strips of bark, lichens, and leaves, lined with finer material such as plant fibers, hair, feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Arrives on breeding grounds mostly in May, departs in September. Winters mostly in foothills and mountains of Mexico.

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Migration

Arrives on breeding grounds mostly in May, departs in September. Winters mostly in foothills and mountains of Mexico.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song a thin, high whee-seet.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Tyrant Flycatchers Perching Birds

Cordilleran Flycatcher

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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