03.14.21: Flycatcher looking back

A Willow Flycatcher perches atop a tree in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A Willow Flycatcher perches atop a tree in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Identifying varieties of flycatchers is difficult

This is a Willow Flycatcher (that’s my guess and I’m sticking to it). Like all flycatchers, this bird would perch on a high spot, then suddenly pop into the air, hover, grab a flying insect, then return to the spot.

I’m out with my camera several times a week photographing birds and other wildlife. I have many thousands of bird photos in my files, but the ones I like the most are photos that show a bird’s normal behavior.

This photo of a Willow Flycatcher does that. When I see a flycatcher, it is usually perched on the highest plant above a field and it is constantly looking for flying insects.

I was hiking through Sharon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio, on a spring morning when I saw this flycatcher perched on top of a tall bush surveying the area. 

Flycatchers are fun to watch as they jump and hover to catch insects. But the similarity of the different types of flycatchers make them difficult to identify correctly.

Sometimes the varieties are so similar that the only way to differentiate them is by their call. That’s definitely the case for the Willow Flycatcher and Alder Flycatcher. They were considered to be the same species until the 1970s.

This is a Willow Flycatcher (that’s my guess and I’m sticking to it). Like all flycatchers, this bird would perch on a high spot, then suddenly pop into the air, hover, grab a flying insect, then return to the spot.

The Willow Flycatcher's migration path is similar to the warbler's. The flycatcher winters in Mexico and Central America (and sometimes in South America), then returns to the United States and Canada for the summer. They eat insects, typically perching near the top of a shrub before quickly flying to catch an insect or hovering to pick a bug from leaves.

The flycatcher family in North America includes a variety of very similar looking birds: Phoebes, Kingbirds, Peewees, Kiskadees and more than a dozen types of birds carrying the Flycatcher name. 

Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 27, 2007 10:03 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 20D
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter: 1/500 second
  • ISO: 200