Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Contopus cooperi

This compact, big-headed flycatcher sits bolt upright on top of the highest dead branch of a tree, calling pip-pip at intervals, as if to ensure that birders notice it. A long-distance migrant, the Olive-sided Flycatcher breeds mostly in northern coniferous forest and winters in the tropics. It has become noticeably less common in recent years, perhaps because of a loss of habitat on the wintering grounds.
Conservation status Evidently has been declining in some regions for many years, particularly so in recent decades. Loss of wintering habitat has been suggested as one possible cause.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Conifer forests, burns, clearings. Breeds mostly in coniferous forest of the north and the higher mountains, especially around the edges of open areas including bogs, ponds, clearings. Also nests near the coast in California, in tall trees (including eucalyptus) in foothill canyons.
This compact, big-headed flycatcher sits bolt upright on top of the highest dead branch of a tree, calling pip-pip at intervals, as if to ensure that birders notice it. A long-distance migrant, the Olive-sided Flycatcher breeds mostly in northern coniferous forest and winters in the tropics. It has become noticeably less common in recent years, perhaps because of a loss of habitat on the wintering grounds.
Photo Gallery
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Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a high, exposed perch, often on a dead branch at very top of tree, flying out to catch passing insects in the air, then returning to its perch to eat them. Always or almost always takes insects in mid-air, not from foliage or ground.


Eggs

3, rarely 2-4. White to pinkish buff, with brown and gray spots concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, 16-17 days, sometimes reported as 14 days. Young: Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 21-23 days.


Young

Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 21-23 days.

Diet

Insects. Apparently feeds almost entirely on flying insects. In summer, a high percentage of these are various kinds of wasps, winged ants, and bees, including many honeybees. Also eats beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, moths, and others. Winter diet not well known.


Nesting

Male defends nesting territory by singing incessantly in spring. Courtship behavior not well known, probably involves active chasing through the treetops. Nest site is in tree, usually on horizontal branch well out from the trunk. Conifers preferred in most areas, but in other areas will often nest in deciduous trees; height also quite variable, 5-70' above ground. Nest usually well hidden among dense twigs or needles. Nest (probably built by female) a flat open cup of twigs, grass, weeds, lined with finer materials.

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

Migration

Tends to migrate late in spring and early in fall, but migration is spread over a long period. Winters mostly in South America, a few in Central America.

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Migration

Tends to migrate late in spring and early in fall, but migration is spread over a long period. Winters mostly in South America, a few in Central America.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song a distinctive and emphatic quick-three-beers; call a loud pip-pip-pip.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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