Bird GuideTyrant FlycatchersBrown-crested Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Myiarchus tyrannulus

At a Glance

Of the three similar crested flycatchers in the west, this is the largest. It is a common summer resident in the southwest, mainly in southern Texas and Arizona. Brown-crested Flycatchers are conspicuous and aggressive in the nesting season; they arrive late in spring, after most other hole-nesting birds, and may have to compete for nest sites. Typically they feed on large insects like beetles or cicadas, but they also have been seen catching hummingbirds on occasion.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Florida, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Flitter, Hovering

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

In its United States range, arrives mostly in May and leaves mostly in August. Apparently only a short-distance migrant; present all year in most parts of Mexico. In fall and winter, a few wander east along Gulf Coast; rare but almost regular in southern Florida in winter.


9 1/2" (24 cm). Like Ash-throated Flycatcher but has bigger bill, more contrasting yellow belly, bushier crest. Tail pattern differs (hard to see). Great Crested Flycatcher (migrant through south Texas) is much darker gray on chest, olive-brown on back, with orange at base of lower mandible.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, Red, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A burry purreeeer, a sharp wit! or way-burg.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Trill


Sycamore canyons, saguaros, river groves. In Texas, mostly in dry woodlands and groves of taller trees along streams and rivers. Farther west, found in tall sycamores or cottonwoods along streams, in lowlands or in canyons; also common in open desert where giant saguaro cactus grows. Limited to areas with large cavities (in trees or saguaros) for nesting.



4-5, sometimes 3-6. White to pale buff, blotched with brown and lavender. Incubation is by female only, about 13-15 days.


Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight probably about 12-18 days. 1 brood per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by flying out from a perch and hovering while taking insects from foliage. Usually forages fairly high. Also catches some insects in mid-air, or from branches or trunks of trees, and occasionally descends to take them on or near the ground. Will perch in shrubs or cactus to eat fruit.


Mostly insects. Feeds mainly on insects, especially cicadas, grasshoppers, and beetles, also other large insects such as dragonflies, praying mantises, and others. Will take small lizards, and has been seen catching and eating hummingbirds. Also feeds on fruit and berries, including the fruit of saguaro cactus.


Male defends nesting territory with loud calls, sometimes by fighting with other males. Courtship may involve male chasing female among the trees. Nest site is usually in hole in tree, either natural cavity or old woodpecker hole, usually 20-50' above the ground. Sometimes nests in artificial sites such as birdhouses, drainpipes, or hollow fence posts. Both sexes help build nest; in deep cavities, they may carry in large amounts of material, to bring the nest level up close to the entrance. Nest foundation is made of grass, weeds, strips of bark, rootlets, feathers, or other debris, lined with finer materials. Usually includes a piece of snakeskin in lining (or sometimes a piece of clear plastic instead).

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Numbers seem stable in limited U.S. range.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Brown-crested Flycatcher. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Brown-crested 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.