Ash-throated Flycatcher

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The advent of very warm weather has brought species into our area that we don’t see in the cooler months.  These include several species of flycatchers.  A few days ago I was driving around with my friend Sam in hilly desert not far from the town of Oracle.  As we drove the back roads we saw several medium-size brown birds perched on low vegetation, especially mesquite and acacia.  Our assumption was that these were Western Kingbirds, a species that is quite common in these parts during spring and summer.  If I had thought more about it I would have realized that something was not quite right about these “kingbirds.”  For one thing, kingbirds have gray, and not brown, plumage as these birds displayed.  For another, the habitat was wrong.  Kingbirds like grasslands and prairies.   We were spotting these birds in upland desert.

I photographed one of the birds.  I still didn’t put two and two together until a couple of days later when another friend, Rene, mentioned to me that my “kingbird” was almost certainly another species.  She suggested that it was an Ash-throated Flycatcher.

She was right. Ash-throated Flycatchers are permanent residents of some parts of southern Arizona and seasonal residents in other locations.  Around Tucson we tend to see these birds in the summer months.  They prefer brushy wooded habitats, precisely the terrain that we were passing through when I photographed this bird.

There are a couple of other species of flycatcher that look a lot like Ash-throated Flycatchers.  The differences in appearance can be quite subtle.  For example, another species, the Brown-crested Flycatcher, looks very much like the bird that I photographed.  However, Brown-crested Flycatchers prefer riparian woodlands to the open desert in which I photographed this bird.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/1000.

One response to “Ash-throated Flycatcher”

  1. Paule Hjertaas says :

    Hi Steve, nice capture but I think it is a Dusky-capped. No Rufous in the tail, no dark color extending across the tai tip ( except on juveniles) and seems to have brown auriculars. Either that or it is a young Ash-throated, which I have never seen.

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