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Olive-sided Flycatcher

Although their names hint that their plumage might be greenish, these birds have laid-back grayish-brown plumage.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a long-distance migrant, and its diet preference for flying insects means it has a late spring arrival and an early fall departure. The Olive-sided Flycatcher migrates alone and can be hard to find in migration, although it often sings in spring, so its distinctive song can be a help in locating one.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is territorial in both the breeding season and in winter, although its breeding territories often overlap with those of other flycatchers.  Its nests are only very rarely parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird.


Description of the Olive-sided Flycatcher


The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a large flycatcher prone to perching on the highest point of a tree.  It has dark olive upperparts, a dark olive “vest” on the flanks contrasting with a whitish belly, and a long, mostly dark bill.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

© Greg Lavaty


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles are similar.


Olive-sided Flycatchers inhabit coniferous forests and clearings, and other woodlands during migration.


Olive-sided Flycatchers eat flying insects.


Olive-sided Flycatchers forage by flycatching from an exposed perch.


Olive-sided Flycatchers breed in the northeastern U.S., west across southern Canada to Alaska, and in western U.S. mountain ranges.  They winter in South America.  The population has declined in recent decades.

Fun Facts

Olive-sided Flycatchers eat many wasps and bees.

Olive-sided Flycatchers have large territories, and are very aggressive when it comes to nest defense.


The typical song is a sharp “quick, three beers.”


Similar Species

  • Olive-sided Flycatchers are slightly larger than most other flycatchers with which it could be confused, and together with the vested appearance, tendency to perch as high as possible, and distinctive voice, can usually be identified without too much difficulty.


The Olive-sided Flycatcher’s nest is a cup of twigs, grasses, and weeds placed on a horizontal branch of widely variable height.

Number: Usually lay 3 eggs.
Color: White or pink with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 15-17 days and fledge at about 3-4 weeks.


Bent Life History of the Olive-sided 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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