Conservation status Numbers seem stable in limited U.S. range.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat 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.
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.

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.


4-5, sometimes 3-6. White to pale buff, blotched with brown and lavender. Incubation is by female only, about 13-15 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight probably about 12-18 days. 1 brood per year.


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


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).

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

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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.

  • 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

A burry purreeeer, a sharp wit! or way-burg.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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