Conservation status Numbers in the United States are apparently stable or possibly increasing. Will use nest boxes put out for bluebirds, and may be benefiting from "bluebird trails" in the west.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Semi-arid country, deserts, brush, mesquites, pinyon-juniper, dry open woods. Found in a wide variety of lowland habitats, usually open and rather arid, avoiding mountains and forests. Often most common in mesquite groves, pinyon-juniper hillsides, and other open woods, it may live in wide-open grassland if nest sites are available. In winter, found along dense desert washes.
This pale flycatcher is common and widespread in arid country of the west. Like its close relatives, it nests in holes in trees. However, because it lives in dry terrain where trees are often small or scarce, it will resort to other sites; nests have been found in such odd places as exhaust pipes, hollow fence posts, mailboxes, and even in trousers hanging on a clothesline.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by flying out from a perch to hover and pick insects from foliage. Sometimes takes insects from trunks or branches, or from the ground; seldom catches them in mid-air. Usually feeds low. Will perch in shrubs or cactus to feed on fruits.


4-5, sometimes 3-7. Creamy white, blotched with brown and lavender. Incubation is by female only, about 15 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 14-16 days; parents feed young for at least several days after they fledge. Often raises 2 broods per year.


Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight about 14-16 days; parents feed young for at least several days after they fledge. Often raises 2 broods per year.


Mostly insects. Feeds on insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, wasps, true bugs, and flies, also some as large as cicadas. Eats spiders, and rarely small lizards. Also feeds on fruits and berries, including those of desert mistletoe and saguaro cactus. Fruits of elephant-tree may be important in winter diet.


Male's song, given in spring to defend nesting territory, is a simple repetition of the usual call notes. Nest site is usually in hole in tree or post, either natural cavity or old woodpecker hole, 2-25' above the ground. In its range, often uses old holes made by Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Also will use holes in giant cactus or in agave stalks, and such sites as birdhouses, metal drain pipes, old Cactus Wren nests, and others. Nest (built by both sexes) is a mass of weeds, grass, twigs, rootlets, lined with softer material such as hair and feathers.

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

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Withdraws from most of United States range in fall, but some spend the winter in southwestern Arizona and southern California. A few wander east as far as Atlantic Coast almost every year, mostly in late fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Purreeeer, similar to call of Brown-crested Flycatcher but softer. Also a soft ka-brick.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Ash-throated Flycatcher

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Ash-throated Flycatcher

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.