Bird GuideTyrant FlycatchersCordilleran Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Empidonax occidentalis

At a Glance

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.
Perching Birds, Tyrant Flycatchers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains
California, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Flitter, Hovering

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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


5 1/2-6" (14-15 cm). Tinged greenish above, with distinct yellow wash on throat. Eye-ring extends behind eye in teardrop shape. From below, bill looks wide, with orange lower mandible. Visually identical to Pacific-slope Flycatcher.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Brown, Green, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Song a thin, high whee-seet.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Hi, Whistle


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.



3-4, rarely 5. Whitish, with brown blotches concentrated near larger end. Incubation is by female only, about 14-15 days.


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

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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Could be affected by cutting of forests in the west; however, still widespread and common.

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 Cordilleran Flycatcher. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Cordilleran 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.