Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Great Crested Flycatcher: Often Heard, Seldom Seen

While sitting on my back porch a couple weeks ago, I spotted yet another bird that I had never seen before. I grabbed my camera and got in a few shots before the bird disappeared.  This one was easier to research because of the distinctive colors of his plumage. 


According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as well as other resources, this feathered beauty is a Great Crested Flycatcher. They are common summer birds in thick hardwood forests and suburban areas with scattered trees throughout the eastern and central United States and southern Canada. Regular populations can be found as far west as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. These birds migrate to the Gulf Coast of Mexico and throughout Central America in the winter, though year-round populations can be found in the southern tip of Florida.

Male and female birds look alike with a beige or olive green back and a darker gray head with a shaggy crest. The throat and upper breast are gray, while the abdomen and undertail coverts are bright yellow. There are two narrow white wing bars on the drab wings, and both the wings and tail show rufous underparts when flying.

These birds are sit-and-wait predators, sallying from high perches (usually near the tops of trees) after large insects, returning to the same or a nearby perch. Their clear, rising reep calls are a very common sound in summer.  Though they’re flycatchers, these birds also eat a fair amount of fruit. Instead of picking at the flesh of small fruit, Great Crested Flycatchers swallow the fruit whole and regurgitate the pits, sometimes several at a time.The Great Crested Flycatcher is a bird of the treetops. It spends very little time on the ground, and does not hop or walk. It prefers to fly from place to place on the ground rather than walk.

Great Crested Flycatchers weave shed snakeskin into their nest. Where it's readily available, as in Florida, nearly every nest contains snakeskin. They also seem to look for flimsy, crinkly nest materials—they’ve also used onion skins, cellophane, or plastic wrappers.

Now that I'm familiar with some of his calls, I'll keep my ears and eyes open...maybe, just maybe, I'll be lucky enough to get a few more snapshots, or even a video :)

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