Alder flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum)

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Alder flycatcher perched
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • As an American species, the alder flycatch drew a crowd of 200 birdwatchers from around the UK when it appeared in Cornwall in 2008.
  • The alder flycatcher has a relatively short breeding season, which lasts a maximum of 90 days.
  • Some alder flycatchers have white rings surrounding the eyes, whereas others do not.
  • The alder flycatcher and the willow flycatcher are so similar in their physical appearance, it was thought that they were the same species, which was known as Traill’s flycatcher.
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Alder flycatcher fact file

Alder flycatcher description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTyrannidae
GenusEmpidonax (1)

The plumage of the alder flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum) is dull olive-green on the upperparts (3) (4), although the head and crown are slightly darker than the back (2) (4). The underside and throat are white, and there are two white or pale yellow bars on the black wings (2) (3). Individuals of this species may have a narrow white eyering (4), although this is absent in some, and the presence of pale-coloured lores is also variable (2).

The moderately long bill is black on the upper surface and pale orange-yellow on the underside (2) (4). The eyes of the alder flycatcher are dark brown (4) and the legs and feet are black (2) (4).

The upperparts of the juvenile alder flycatcher are browner than the adult (2) (3), the underparts are tinged yellow (3) and there are broad, yellow-buff bars on the wings (2) (3).

Only the male alder flycatcher produces vocalisations (4), which include a short ‘pip’, ‘pit’, ‘tip’, ‘bic’, ‘peep’ or ‘whit(2), as well as a distinct, buzzy ‘fee-bee-o’ song (2) (4).

Size
Length: 13 - 17 cm (2)
Wingspan: 21 - 24 cm (3)
Weight
12 - 14 g (2)
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Alder flycatcher biology

The diet of the alder flycatcher includes a variety of arthropods, including bees, wasps, flies, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers and crickets (2). An individual may search for prey from a perch and pursue it through the air, or may take it directly from within foliage (2) (4).  In winter, this species may also eat small amounts of fruit (3) (4).

A long-distance migrant (2) (4), the alder flycatcher leaves its wintering grounds between March and early May, moving northwards to breed (2). This species usually remains at its breeding grounds until late August, when most individuals will have begun their southward migration (4).

The relatively short breeding season of the alder flycatcher runs from mid-June to early August (2). The nest is constructed solely by the female and is a loose cup of coarse grass which is lined with wiry grass and conifer needles (2). The nest is usually completed after around 36 hours (4) and the female then produces a clutch of 3 or 4 cream-white eggs (2) (3) (4), which may be unmarked or have an irregular dark pattern on the surface (3) (4). The female incubates the nest for between 11 and 15 days, and once the eggs have hatched (2) (4) the young are fed by both adults (4). The young then fledge the nest after 14 or 15 days (2).

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Alder flycatcher range

The breeding range of the alder flycatcher extends through Canada and into a small area in the north-eastern United States. The migratory pathway of this species passes through the eastern United States and Central America, with the overwintering grounds located in various western South American countries, including Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Belize, and Venezuela (3) (5).

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Alder flycatcher habitat

The habitat of the alder flycatcher is seasonally variable, with dense, wet areas of alder (Alnus species) maple (Acer species) and birch (Betula species) forest preferred during the breeding season (2) (3). The breeding habitat is usually located in areas below elevations of 1,300 metres (2) (4).

While migrating, the alder flycatcher is found in various humid and semi-arid open habitats, such as forest edges, woodlands and fields (2) up to elevations of 2,500 metres (2) (4).

In winter, the alder flycatcher inhabits thickets and forest borders (2), as well as areas with early successional vegetation (2) (3) (4). While overwintering, this species is found up to elevations of 1,100 metres (2).

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Alder flycatcher status

The alder flycatcher is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Alder flycatcher threats

There are not currently known to be any threats to the alder flycatcher.

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Alder flycatcher conservation

There are not known to be any conservation measures currently in place for the alder flycatcher.

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Find out more

Find out more about the alder flycatcher:

Find out more about North American bird conservation:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Arthropods
A major grouping of animals that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Early successional vegetation
The first plants to colonise an ecosystem after a disturbance.
Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Lores
The space between a bird’s bill and eyes.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2013)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Farnsworth, A. and Lebbin, D. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 9: Contingas to Pipits and Wagtails. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Available at:
    http://www.hbw.com/species/alder-flycatcher-empidonax-alnorum
  3. All About Birds - Alder flycatcher (January, 2014)
    http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Alder_Flycatcher/id
  4. Lowther, P. E. (1999) Alder flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum) In: Poole, A. (Ed.) Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
    http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/446/
  5. BirdLife International - Alder flycatcher (January, 2014)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=4278
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Image credit

Alder flycatcher perched  
Alder flycatcher perched

© Jim Zipp / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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