At a Glance
This compact, big-headed flycatcher sits bolt upright on top of the highest dead branch of a tree, calling pip-pip at intervals, as if to ensure that birders notice it. A long-distance migrant, the Olive-sided Flycatcher breeds mostly in northern coniferous forest and winters in the tropics. It has become noticeably less common in recent years, perhaps because of a loss of habitat on the wintering grounds.
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, Freshwater Wetlands, High Mountains, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Tends to migrate late in spring and early in fall, but migration is spread over a long period. Winters mostly in South America, a few in Central America.
7 1/2" (19 cm). Dark, mottled sides contrast with white stripe down center of chest (like unbuttoned vest). Has big-headed, short-tailed look. Tuft of white may show above wing.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, White
Songs and Calls
Song a distinctive and emphatic quick-three-beers; call a loud pip-pip-pip.
Conifer forests, burns, clearings. Breeds mostly in coniferous forest of the north and the higher mountains, especially around the edges of open areas including bogs, ponds, clearings. Also nests near the coast in California, in tall trees (including eucalyptus) in foothill canyons.
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3, rarely 2-4. White to pinkish buff, with brown and gray spots concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, 16-17 days, sometimes reported as 14 days.
Fed by both parents. Age of young at first flight about 21-23 days.
Forages by watching from a high, exposed perch, often on a dead branch at very top of tree, flying out to catch passing insects in the air, then returning to its perch to eat them. Always or almost always takes insects in mid-air, not from foliage or ground.
Insects. Apparently feeds almost entirely on flying insects. In summer, a high percentage of these are various kinds of wasps, winged ants, and bees, including many honeybees. Also eats beetles, grasshoppers, true bugs, moths, and others. Winter diet not well known.
Male defends nesting territory by singing incessantly in spring. Courtship behavior not well known, probably involves active chasing through the treetops. Nest site is in tree, usually on horizontal branch well out from the trunk. Conifers preferred in most areas, but in other areas will often nest in deciduous trees; height also quite variable, 5-70' above ground. Nest usually well hidden among dense twigs or needles. Nest (probably built by female) a flat open cup of twigs, grass, weeds, lined with finer materials.
Evidently has been declining in some regions for many years, particularly so in recent decades. Loss of wintering habitat has been suggested as one possible cause.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Olive-sided 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.