At a Glance
A standing joke among birders is that this bird's name is longer than the bird itself. This tiny flycatcher occurs in thickets and streamside woods near the Mexican border, where it is easily overlooked until one learns its piping calls. It perches upright and often flips its tail like an Empidonax flycatcher, but it may feed differently, moving along twigs to glean insects from the foliage. The name 'Beardless' reflects the lack of bristles around the base of the bill (present in most of our flycatchers).
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
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Only a short-distance migrant. In Arizona more common in summer, but small numbers winter regularly at lower elevations. A few present at all seasons in southern Texas, perhaps more numerous in summer.
4" (10 cm). Suggests an Empidonax flycatcher but even smaller, with bushy-headed look, thin stubby bill. Has slight dark line through eye but no obvious eye-ring; vague wing-bars. Often bobs tail up and down.
About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Gray, Green, White, Yellow
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped
Songs and Calls
A thin tee-tee-tee-tee-tee, loudest in the middle. Also 3 long notes followed by a trill.
Chirp/Chip, Hi, Whistle
Low woods, mesquites, stream thickets, lower canyons. In United States, often in woods near streams through dry country. Favors stands of mesquite or cottonwood-willow groves in Arizona, native woodland of huisache, ebony, hackberry, and mesquite in southern Texas. In tropics found in a variety of semi-open habitats and dry woods.
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3, sometimes 1-2. White, finely marked with dots of brown and gray, especially around the larger end. Details of incubation poorly known. Young: Probably fed by both parents. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.
Probably fed by both parents. Development of young and age at first flight not well known.
Especially in summer, often forages in typical flycatcher style, flying out from a perch to catch insects in its bill, taking them either in the air or from foliage. Often, however, forages more like a vireo, moving slowly and taking insects from surface of twigs or leaves.
Mostly insects. Diet not known in detail. Apparently feeds mostly on very small and slow-moving insects; known items include scale insects, treehoppers, beetle larvae, moth caterpillars, fly pupae, and others. Also reported to eat some seeds and berries.
Nesting behavior is not well known. Male sings whistled song in spring and summer to defend nesting territory. Nest site is in outer branches of tree or large shrub, 4-50' above the ground, usually 10-30' up. Often placed where it will be well camouflaged: inside a clump of mistletoe, or in an old tent caterpillar web, in a tree that has many such clumps. Nest size and shape of a baseball, with an entrance high on one side; made of grasses and weeds, lined with soft plant down and feathers.
May have declined with loss of streamside habitat in the southwest, but still locally common.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
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.