Return of Bird of the Week: Alder Flycatcher


Identification of flycatchers can be hard. Really hard. But now that we’re warmed up with all those yellow, black and white flycatchers, let’s continue our examination of some really hard birds: the infamous Empidonax genus, the “Emps.” Because after you’ve done Emps, nothing will seem as hard.

Last week we looked at the Hammond’s Flycatcher. This week we’ll have a look at the Alder Flycatcher.

Alder Flycatcher, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

Alder Flycatcher, Creamer’s Refuge, Fairbanks

This species has an impressive migration: it winters in South America, mostly in Brazil but as far south as Argentina. It’s a later arrival in the boreal forest, where it joins other Emps to torment birders. Here’s the Alder Flycatcher alongside last week’s Hammond’s.

 

Hammond's Flycatcher, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

Hammond’s Flycatcher, Creamer’s Refuge, Fairbanks

Alder Flycatcher, Creamer's Refuge, Fairbanks

Alder Flycatcher, Creamer’s Refuge, Fairbanks

There are a few field marks you can use to distinguish the species. The bill on the Alder is larger; the wings are a little longer along the tail in the Hammond’s. But it’s hard.

Alder Flycatcher, Dog Musher's Field, Fairbanks

Alder Flycatcher, Dog Musher’s Field, Fairbanks

The easiest way to tell these Empids apart is by their song. The Alder sings, “Fee-bee-o.” The Hammond’s sings, “Fitz-few”. Of course, if the birds aren’t singing, that’s not a lot of help.

Populations of Alder Flycatchers are stable across the U.S., but have declined in Canada by about 40%. They may be at risk because of climate change: their long migration means a later arrival, and as the boreal forest warms the timing for maximum insect populations may go wrong.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

 

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