Vermilions In Winter
It’s been a few months since I posted photos of Vermilion Flycatchers and so I thought I’d do so today. Vermilions are among my absolute favorite wildlife species to photograph. These little birds — smaller than sparrows — are exquisitely beautiful, with the males glowing like rubies amidst the vegetation on which they perch.
These little flycatchers are native to the desert Southwest. One rarely sees them in other parts of the United States. However, although they live in a desert region, one never sees them in the desert itself. They prefer to be close to water, either a stream or a pond, and they like to perch in larger trees such as mature mesquites, cottonwoods, and willows. The bird depicted this evening is perching on a mesquite tree that is adjacent to a pond. I photographed it last week in a local public park.
Vermilion Flycatchers are territorial. One will stake out two or three trees as its own and will fly constantly from one tree to the next, hunting for insects and defending its turf. They can be surprisingly aggressive against interlopers, including birds of other species. I watched this one chase off several House Finches that committed the error of attempting to perch on the Vermilion’s tree.
Vermilion Flycatchers are remarkably efficient insect hunters. Their hunting technique is to search their neighborhood while perching. If you see one of these birds on a perch you’ll notice right away that it is constantly turning its head, looking for flying insects. When it spots one, it will dart out from its perch, seize the insect on the wing, and return to its perch. It is a feat that requires amazingly acute vision and tremendous aerial acrobatic ability. These little birds can spot mosquitoes in flight from a distance of several yards and they are fully capable of flying loops and upside down while chasing and capturing their prey.
All of this talent and they are gorgeous, too!
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/1250.