I’ll be the first to admit that these small gray/green/yellow flycatchers are difficult to identify, especially when they are silent as most of the birds are that I see in the deserts of central AZ. When I “learned my birds” I lived in New Jersey, and the problem of empidonax identification was fairly easy – you just listened to them on territory! When I moved from NJ to AZ I mostly gave up on these troublesome birds, but I still struggle with them at times embarrassed by this particular inadequacy.
The flycatcher shown here sat in front of me and my camera for just over a minute in the Demonstration Garden at Boyce Thompson Arboretum on 3/28/09. I got off a few frames, mostly to assist in later study with my collection of field guides. The setting wasn’t the best, and the light direction was a problem, so both of the images shown here have their aesthetic issues.
The possibilities are:
- Gray Flycatcher
- Hammond’s Flycatcher
- Dusky Flycatcher
- Pacific-slope Flycatcher
- Cordilleran Flycatcher
- Willow Flycatcher
I’ve left out the eastern empids, as well as the colorful Buff-breasted Flycatcher, from the list of likely birds here near Phoenix.
I’ve posted a gallery with more shots (as well as head close-ups cropped from these and other images) on my web site.
I’d enjoy hearing anyone’s analysis on this bird – maybe its still not too late for me to continue to “learn my birds.”
The votes are in, and by an overwhelming majority this bird has been identified as a Hammond’s Flycatcher. The tally of comments received here and in private email messages is:
- Hammond’s Flycatcher – 8
- Dusky Flycatcher – 2
- Least Flycatcher – 1
My thanks to all who provided insight on this bird. Now, all I need to do is keep the input in mind and apply it in the field next time I see a silent empid in front of me.
I’ve received another well reasoned vote for Dusky Flycatcher from an experienced local birder whose judgement I trust, so the count now stands at 8, 3, 1. So, please provide your input if you have an opinion on this bird.