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Gray Flycatcher

This small flycatcher is known for its gray plumage and distinctive eyering.

Occupying a large portion of the western U.S., the Gray Flycatcher is a member of the Empidonax group of flycatchers, and migrates to Mexico and southeastern Arizona in the winter. Gray Flycatcher migration takes place at night, and males usually arrive on breeding grounds before females.

Several methods are employed by Gray Flycatchers to claim and defend their territories, including songs, calls, and displays, and even fighting if necessary. The related Dusky Flycatcher is also excluded from Gray Flycatcher territories.

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Description of the Gray Flycatcher


The Gray Flycatcher lives up to its name, being nondescript grayish above and whitish below, with a white eye ring and two wing bars. Its lower mandible is usually orange with a dark tip.  Length: 6 in.  Wingspan: 9 in.

Gray Flycatcher


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter adults are greener above and yellowish below.


Similar to adults.


Sagebrush, and juniper and pinyon woodlands.




Forages by flying out from a perch to capture flying insects.


Breeds in much of the interior western U.S. and winters in Mexico.

Fun Facts

The Gray Flycatcher often wags its tail downward in Eastern Phoebe-like fashion. Other Empidonax species often exhibit a quick upward tail flick.

A variety of vocalizations and displays are used by males to maintain breeding territories.


The song is a two note “chi-bit” followed by a gurgle sound. The call is a loud “whit”.


Similar Species

Hammond’s Flycatcher
Hammond’s Flycatchers have shorter bills, but all are similar in appearance.

Dusky Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher is very similar to Gray Flycatcher, may show more olive back than in this photograph, best clue is sing or call.


The nest is a cup of weeds, twigs, and other plant materials and is placed in a crotch or on a branch of a pinyon pine or juniper.

Number: 3-4.
Color: White.

Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at 14 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) in 16 days after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Gray Flycatcher

Bent Life History not available.

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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