Alder Flycatcher

Empidonax alnorum
Alder Flycatcher specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (5 ½ inches) flycatcher resembling several related species in the genus Empidonax, the Alder Flycatcher may best be separated from its relatives not by appearance, but by its ‘fee-bee-o’ song. Physical field marks include a grayish-brown body, white eye ring, pale breast, thin bill, and white wing bars. Male and female Alder Flycatchers are similar to one another in all seasons. The Alder Flycatcher breeds across much of Canada, Alaska, and northern portions of the United States. Smaller populations occur south of this species main range at higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. Alder Flycatchers are believed to spend the winter in northern South America, but verifying this species’ winter range is difficult due to its similarity to other related species and the fact that this species does not sing its characteristic song in winter. Alder Flycatchers breed in wetlands dominated by low shrubs and other small woody plants, particularly those in the Alder family. In winter and on migration, Alder Flycatchers may be found in a number of open habitats with low vegetation, although much less is known about this species’ biology outside of the breeding season. Alder Flycatchers primarily eat insects. In northern wetlands in summer, Alder Flycatchers are most easily seen while catching insects in flight. Learning this species’ song is crucial to separating it from its relatives, however, and silent birds are frequently impossible to identify. Alder Flycatchers are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Uncommon breeding and transient bird, migrating to this region in May, nesting from late May to early August, and migrating south in August and September. Usually found in brushy thickets near water. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16964 Empidonax alnorum (Alder Flycatcher)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16965 Empidonax alnorum (Alder Flycatcher)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16966 Empidonax alnorum (Alder Flycatcher)