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Dusky Flycatcher

Known for their modest plumage, these birds are a common sight across the western side of the United States.

A migratory flycatcher of the western U.S. and Canada, the Dusky Flycatcher belongs to the genus Empidonax, which is made up of a number of hard to identify species. The Dusky Flycatcher’s diet of aerial insects makes it vulnerable to spring and summer cold snaps or heavy precipitation that can reduce or eliminate its food supply.

Only female Dusky Flycatchers incubate eggs, and some males bring food to their mate. The more food he brings, the more time the female spends incubating. This incubation feeding likely strengthens the pair bond, and may also increase nest success.


Description of the Dusky Flycatcher


Dusky Flycatcher

Image © Greg Lavaty

The Dusky Flycatcher is grayish or brownish-olive above with an olive breast, a white eye ring, and whitish wing bars. The base of the lower mandible is orange but the tip is dark.


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles resemble adults but have tawnier wing bars.


Open forest and brushy slopes.




Forages by flying from a perch to capture flying insects.


Breeds in a large portion of western North America and winters in Mexico and Central America.

Fun Facts

Thinning of coniferous forest stands by logging can create habitat for Dusky Flycatchers.

Males have a flight song display that is initiated from a treetop perch and involves a circling flight.


The song has three distinct parts, and calls include “whit” notes, rattles, and “wheak” sounds.


Similar Species


The nest is a cup of grasses and other plant material placed in the fork of a shrub.

Number: 4
Color: Whitish.

Incubation and fledging:  ?
– Young hatch at 15-16 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) 15-20 days after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Dusky Flycatcher

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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