Vermilion Flycatchers — Female And Male

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I posted recently about my “friend,” a male Vermilion Flycatcher that I’ve become acquainted with and photographed over a period of about three years. He inhabits a heavily trafficked local park and has become quite used to humans in close proximity. He’s a piece of cake to photograph if one approaches him quietly and respectfully.

His brilliant plumage is his trademark and namesake.

If photographing this male is relatively easy the opposite could be said about photographing the female of the species. There is a female Vermilion Flycatcher — most likely this male’s mate — that frequents the same park as does the male. She, unlike her mate, is extremely elusive. Although I see her on most of my trips to the park, she invariably flees as I approach her. It’s been a continuing frustration, trying to photograph this bird.

My fortune turned a couple of weeks ago. I was walking through the park when a bit of motion caught my eye. I looked at the source of the motion, and realized that the female had just landed on a branch only feet away from me. I quickly made this image.

The encounter didn’t last long, just seconds, and she was gone. I rejoiced. It’s by far the best image I’ve made of a female Vermilion. Her plumage, obviously, is far less brilliant than that of her mate. However, I find it to be subtly beautiful, particularly the orange plumage on her breast and abdomen.

Why is the male so insouciant and the female so timid? Are female flycatchers more timid by nature than their male counterparts? Perhaps, but I think that I have another explanation. The male in this park is intensely territorial. He will attempt to drive off interlopers of other species as well as those of his own species. I’ve watched on numerous occasions during non-breeding season as the male chased off the female, whose territory overlaps his own. So, perhaps it isn’t me that causes the female to be so secretive and furtive in her movements. Perhaps she’s guarding her back against being harassed by her mate.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS L zoom lens, M setting (auto ISO). First image, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/500, -1 2/3 stops exposure compensation. Second image, ISO 400, f7.1 @ 1/500, +1 stop exposure compensation.

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