Richard and Diane Van Vleck Personal Pages
The Home Habitat

Willow Flycatcher

Empidonax traillii

In 2006, a willow flycatcher nest was found in multiflora rose intertwined in an 8' shrub along Cattail branch, within 20 feet of the bank. The nest was small and well-concealed and found only by watching the adults for sometime. Like typical flycatchers, they spend much of their time perched high on branches of large trees, from which they dart out to catch flying insects. Their frequent visits to the vicinity of this small shrub is what led me to the nest.

The trailer blind was positioned to observe both the flycatcher nest and a simultaneous nesting of a catbird nearby. However, observation records and dates were not kept. Also, video was not recorded since I wasn't yet prepared to record at a remote location. This year, 2007, I plan to use a car battery to record anywhere on our property.

The nest was discovered with one cowbird egg and one flycatcher egg. Possibly, a second flycatcher egg had been pitched by the cowbird. At the next visit, one cowbird egg and three flycatcher eggs were present. The average clutch of the willow flycatcher is only three eggs, so perhaps the cowbird didn't previously pitch an egg.

On my third visit, the cowbird egg had hatched and the three flycatcher eggs remained. The cowbird nestling was removed by a human who wanted to observe a normal flycatcher nesting. Willow flycatchers are known to eject cowbird eggs and are frequent cowbird hosts. Perhaps the location of this nest, only three feet high in a shrub, attracted the female cowbirdís attention, as it did mine. Both adults could almost always be seen near the nest during my brief stints in the blind. I didnít witness any confrontations with other species in the immediate vicinity of the nest. Catbirds were feeding young 12í away in an equally low nest, with no apparent interactions between the two species.

On my next visit, the first flycatcher egg had hatched and later that day or the next, the second egg hatched. The third egg never hatched, leaving the two nestlings to quickly crowd the small nest. Early in the nestling phase, the female would remain on the nest brooding unless I approached within 10 feet or so. When I would enter the blind, she would soon return to the nest. The male also seemed rather indifferent to my presence as long as I stayed a few feet away from the nest. After the two young fledged, they were observed high on a limb of an ash tree overlooking the creek, being fed by the adults.

The Willow Flycatcher is one of the many species showing a consistent decline in population over its nesting area, according to BBS data. Possible causes suggested are loss of habitat, brown headed cowbird nest parasitism and use of pesticides. It would have been interesting to have observed this flycatcher nest when the cowbird egg was laid. Were the pewees away from the nest area? Or did they harass the cowbird who still succeeded in laying anyway? Hopefully, I will someday catch on video the pre-dawn egg laying of a female cowbird in a host nest.

Willow flycatcher incubating eggs

Willow flycatcher incubating eggs

Well-camouflaged Willow flycatcher

Well camouflaged Willow flycatcher on nest

Willow flycatcher nestlings

Willow flycatcher nestlings

Older nestlings

Older nestlings

still older Willow flycatcher nestlings

Still older Willow flycatcher nestlings

The trailer blind at the Willow flycatcher nest site

The trailer blind at the Willow flycatcher nest site. The nest is about 20 feet to the left of the blind.

2001-2012 nest box cams

Willow flycatcher nest with one cowbird and one flycatcher egg

Willow flycatcher nest with one brown headed cowbird egg and one flycatcher egg.

Willow flycatcher nest with one cowbird and three flycatcher eggs

Nest with one brown headed cowbird egg and three Willow flycatcher eggs

Newly hatched brown headed cowbird in Willow flycatcher nest

Newly hatched cowbird in Willow flycatcher nest

Newly hatched Willow flycatcher

Newly hatched Willow flycatcher and two remaining flycatcher eggs

Two Willow flycatcher nestlings and one infertile egg

Two Willow flycatcher nestlings and one infertile egg.

Two day old Willow flycatcher nestlings

Two day old Willow flycatcher nestlings

Willow flycatcher nestlings nearing fledge day

Willow flycatcher nestling nearing fledge day

Willow flycatcher collecting fecal sac at nest

Willow flycatcher collecting fecal sac at nest

 

Willow flycatcher on nest

Adult Willow flycatcher on nest with young

 


2022 update - Return of the barn owls
2021 Chimney Swift tower success!!!
2020 Barn Swallow nesting
Barn swallow nest cups
2019 Barn Swallows and Black Rat Snakes

2018 - The Barnyard Balance of Nature Goes Awry
Black rat snakes vs barn swallows, Northern flickers, kestrels and others

2018 Purple Martin preference for clam shells
2017 - Return of the Monarchs!
2017 Purple Martin prey photos
2010 - 2016 Northern flicker nestings
2014 house wren gourd use
2014 - A dramatic loss of many types of insects
2019-2020 Purple Martin nesting
2014 barn owl nesting - prey study
A new barn swallow shelter for 2013
2010 barn owl nesting
2010 Update
2016-2017 Kestrel nestings
Starling traps
Using blinds in the home habitat
Providing perches for birds
Providing snags for wildlife
The ugly young maple
2001 - 2013 nest cams
Use of tomato cages as hunting perches by insectivorous song birds
Vultures, beetles and the resurrection of life

Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird
Yellow warbler Acadian flycatcher

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