At a Glance
Of our eleven little Empidonax flycatchers, this is the smallest and the easiest to identify by color. It is also the one with the most limited range in our area, nesting in only a few canyons in Arizona. At one time, this species ranged more widely in the southwest. It favors open, grassy pine forest, a habitat maintained by occasional forest fires; fire prevention may have reduced the number of Buff-breasted Flycatchers north of the border.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Summer resident in Arizona, arriving in early April and departing in September. In Mexico, may regularly move to lower elevations in winter.
4 1/2 -5" (11-13 cm). Smaller, paler, and browner than most Empidonax flycatchers. Unique pale buff wash on chest (may be hard to see on faded midsummer birds).
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Brown, Orange, Red, Tan, White
Songs and Calls
Song is a quick chicky-whew. Call is a dull pit.
Open pine woods. In Arizona, breeds in open areas in the mountains between elevations of 6,000-9,000'. Mostly in pines and oaks with very open, grassy understory. Tends to be concentrated along canyons, near trees growing along streams. In Mexico, summers in open pine woods, may winter in streamside trees at lower elevations.
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3-4, sometimes 2, rarely 5. Creamy white. Incubation is by female only, 14-16 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 15-17 days after hatching. For several days after fledging, young stay close together, are fed by parents.
Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 15-17 days after hatching. For several days after fledging, young stay close together, are fed by parents.
Forages by watching from a perch, then flying out to capture insects, then returning to the same perch or a new one. May forage high or low. Captures insects in mid-air, or takes them from foliage while hovering; may also drop to the ground to capture food there.
Insects. Diet is not known in detail. Apparently feeds only on small insects and other arthropods, including ants, wasps, true bugs, beetles, moths, spiders, and others.
Often nests in loose colonies. Male sings to defend nesting territory. Courtship behavior involves male and female exploring potential nest sites together. Nest site is in tree (often in pine), either at base of branch against trunk or well out on horizontal branch, averaging about 25' above the ground. Usually placed directly under an overhanging branch or group of leaves. Nest (built by female only) is open cup of spiderwebs, rootlets, and leaves, the outside decorated with lichens, leaves, flakes of bark, and feathers. Lined with fine grasses, feathers, pine needles.
Arizona population may be only a few dozen pairs, but thought to be gradually increasing after a low point in the late 1960s. Fire may help create more nesting habitat.