Photo: Arthur Morris/Vireo

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Empidonax flaviventris

Conservation status Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat, especially on wintering grounds. Currently numbers appear to be stable.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Woods; in summer, boreal forests, muskegs, bogs. Breeds in wet northern forest, especially in spruce bogs with ground cover of sphagnum moss, also in tamarack-white cedar swamps, and in willow-alder thickets along streams in dense coniferous forest. In winter, lives in undergrowth of tropical forest.
While some of its relatives are often found in sunny open places, the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is a bird of deep shade. It spends the summer in spruce bogs and other damp northern forests, where it places its nest on the ground in sphagnum moss or among tree roots. Although the Yellow-bellied is not as hard to identify in spring as some small flycatchers, birders may miss it because it moves north late, after most of the spring migrants have passed.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch, usually at low to mid levels in 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. May sometimes take some insects while perched.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 5. White, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 13-14 days. Probably only 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 13-14 days. Probably only 1 brood per year.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a variety of small insects, both flying types and those taken from foliage, including many ants and small wasps, also flies, beetles, true bugs, caterpillars, moths, and others. Also eats many spiders, and eats small numbers of berries and sometimes seeds.


Nesting

Male defends nesting territory by singing, often from an exposed perch. Adults tend to be quiet and inconspicuous around the nest. Nest site is usually in dense sphagnum moss on or just above the ground in boggy places; sometimes placed among the upturned roots of a fallen tree, or in other sheltered low spot. Generally well hidden within mosses with only a small entrance showing, and very difficult to find. Nest is bulky cup of mosses, mixed with weeds and rootlets, lined with grass, sedges, and many fine rootlets.

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

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Spring migration is notably late, with most northbound migrants passing through in mid to late May. Almost all migration is through the east, even for birds nesting in far western Canada.

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Migration

Spring migration is notably late, with most northbound migrants passing through in mid to late May. Almost all migration is through the east, even for birds nesting in far western Canada.

Songs and Calls
On breeding grounds, a flat chilk or killic; also a rising 2-note whistle, per-wee?