Conservation status Could be affected by cutting of forests in the west; however, still widespread and common.
Family Tyrant Flycatchers
Habitat Moist woods, forests, shady canyons. Breeds in forested regions, mostly in the mountains, and mostly in deciduous growth along streams through mixed or coniferous forest. Often forages in conifers such as pines or Douglas-firs, but not common in purely coniferous forest. May tend to be in slightly drier or more open forest than Pacific-slope Flycatcher.
Among the look-alike Empidonax flycatchers, the two most difficult to tell apart are this species and the Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Males usually can be recognized by their callnotes, but females can hardly be identified at all except by their ranges in summer. They were regarded as one species (under the name 'Western Flycatcher') until the late 1980s, and differences between them are still poorly understood.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by watching from a perch and then flying out to catch insects in the air. Also takes some food from foliage or twigs while hovering. Often forages quite high among the branches of tall conifers, but will also feed low, especially among streamside trees.


3-4, rarely 5. Whitish, with brown blotches concentrated near larger end. Incubation is by female only, about 14-15 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight probably about 14-18 days.


Both parents bring food for nestlings. Age of young at first flight probably about 14-18 days.


Mostly insects. Differences in diet between this bird and Pacific-slope Flycatcher poorly known. For the two species combined, diet is mostly insects, including small wasps, bees, flies, caterpillars, moths, beetles, and others. Also eats spiders, and a few berries and seeds.


Differences in nesting (if any) between this species and Pacific-slope Flycatcher are poorly known. Nest site is sometimes in the fork of a small tree, but usually in other situations: in a cleft of a vertical streambank, on a stump, among the upturned roots of a fallen tree, under a small bridge, or on rafters in a shed. Natural sites are usually near (or on) the ground, but on artificial structures the nest may be more than 10' up. Nest (built by female) is cup of moss, grass, rootlets, strips of bark, lichens, and leaves, lined with finer material such as plant fibers, hair, feathers.

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

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Arrives on breeding grounds mostly in May, departs in September. Winters mostly in foothills and mountains of Mexico.

  • 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

Song a thin, high whee-seet.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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