English and Scientific names:

Gray Flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii)

Number of individuals: 

1 basic plumage

Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

Cattle lot at NE corner of intersection of Deen Point Rd. and Wyche Rd. in Bossier Parish SSE of Benton, La. on private property owned by the Wyche family.


Date(s) when observed:

On first day 1-24-08- from aprx. 11:15-45 am, again at aprx. 12:05-15 pm, 1-25-08- from aprx. 07:45-08:30 am., 1-26-08- from 07:52-09:15 am, 1-27-07 from 06:50 am to approx 4:30 pm


Time(s) of day when observed:  


Reporting observer and address:


Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Jeff and Jean Trahan, Charlie Lyon, Jim Ingold, Paul Dickson, Rosemary Seidler, Larry Raymond, Lawrence Hardy, Clyde Massey, Marty Guidry, Devin Bosler, Justin Bosler, Paul Conover, Mac Myers, Dave Patton, Danny Dobbs, Linda Beall, Shirley Huss, Nancy Menasco, Jerry Bertrand, Allison Wilkes, Dee Baum, Phyllis (from Punta Gorda), Ed Wallace, Joelle Finley, Lorie Crayon, M.E. Lewis, John Dillon, Janis Harrison, Jack and Marsha Land, Linda Adrion, and others if (inadvertently) not mentioned. Much thanks to everyone above, especially Jeff Trahan who invited me to go atlas, Charlie Lyon, Paul Dickson, Jim Ingold, Van Remsen, Jon Dunn, Kimball Garrett, and others for support on initial photos, etc., and to all others who came to document as well.

Other observers accompanying reporter who independently identified the bird(s):

Huber and Pat Hervey, Roger Breedlove, Lainie LaHaye, Jane Patterson and others.


Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

The bird was first observed during overcast conditions. Most of observations were during overcast, often bright conditions, sometimes less.


Optical equipment: 

on 1st date through Brunton Eterna 11 x 42 binoculars in good optical condition, through viewfinder of Jeff's Nikon 20D camera and 400mm lens, through his Kowa spotting scope, and various other spotting scopes on subsequent dates

Distance to bird(s): 

First spotted at approx 75 yards to ENE. Observed at various intervals/dates later from 15 feet to 150 yards. Sometimes flying by as close as 10 feet.


Duration of observation:

0n 1-24-08- on and off approx. 40 mins, 1-25-08-on/off 45 mins, 1-26-08 on/off for approx.1 hr.,20 mins, 1-27 for approx. 3-4 hours total of aprx. 10 hours at site.



The surrounding terrain is level, with grasses, weeds of various heights and rather open. The immediate site is a very short-grazed, grassy cattle lot, muddy and very pock-marked by cattle use, also bordered by two road edges and other fencelines/narrow shelterbelts bisecting lot of Hackberry, Honey Locust, Chinese Tallow, scattered larger red-type oaks and other mostly smaller trees. Fencelines also rank w/ low scrubby and vinaceous vegetation, Smilax. Most all trees at site are deciduous, most lower herbaceous vegetation and vines are either browned or entirely leafless. There are 3 scattered buildings/sheds in immediate vicinity, one of which is fallen down.


Behavior of bird: 

The bird was first observed to ENE of my position in middle of rd. in a low leafless tree at the SW corner of a cattle shed on poles w/ no walls. The bird was observed for 2 seconds perched facing me, faintly to side at approximately 5-6' feet on an outer limb, and comparatively longish tail was noted with downward dip, deep but rather soft like an EAPH, which I thought it was for first few seconds of observation, w/ distance and size deceptive at time w/ another bare bushy tree between myself and bird, also noted was the pale grayish-green to crown. The bird sallied (prob to ground) then re-appeared perched w/ more of side view and whitish wingbars and tertial edging which were non-contrasting to palish remiges and pale greenish back was noted. I said to Jeff, "I have a pale, green-headed phoebe and it has white wingbars, THAT'S NOT RIGHT!" I moved quickly to E, then N for a better look. After a very brief pause, bird was relocated at ENE corner of barn and small size, pale sides to breast, soft, complete eyering was noted and I said to Jeff, but certainly not entirely convinced, "I believe we have a Gray Flycatcher. I noted the dark blackish-gray upper mandible and yellowish, faintly orange-tinted mandible below but could not see tip well. I also faintly saw the whitish outer line/edge of rectrices when bird relocated. Jeff took some photos from approx 80' when bird came closer and then handed me the camera as I went under barbed-wire fence to try for a closer shot. I chased the bird for rest of time and photo'd approx. 35 times. I was nervous, still in state of shock/disbelief, but also was fairly sure I saw the dark and crisply delineated tip to yellowish bill and thin white supraloral continuing across top of bill through lens, when I was able to hold camera steady enough (infrequently). The bird was heard giving soft dry "wit" calls. The slightly-notched tail, w/ deep downward dip with none to faint lateral movement, not stopped at bottom of dip and action continuous when returned to original position and somewhat abruptly/stiffly stopped there, frequently repeated at times- was also noted during this observation, further convincing me it was GRFL. The bird was noted sallying to the ground often, w/ prey items only secured/ swallowing noted only after leaving there. I also heard a couple of emphatic, sweeter "whseew" calls. We called Jim Ingold and others to notify. We continue atlasing further E on Deen Point Rd. momentarily before deciding to go and check the photos. We stopped briefly on way out and bird was relocated 100-+ yds to E. in open, short grass cattle field w/ scattered weeds perched at 2', then disappearing low over taller weeds to WNW. I suspected the bird would roost in dense tall grass and weedy patch w/ scattered Baccharus Halimifolia 100 yds to N of immediate area. Later, near evening Jeff and I found the bird again and followed. Jim Ingold arrived and identified the bird, he also saw it crossing Deen rd. to S. Bird foraged along slightly broader, more dense shelterbelt there briefly before returning to cattle lot. Charlie Lyon arrived in very late afternoon and quickly said "that's certainly a Gray Flycatcher" while observing bird perched on low limb near NW corner of barn, and also followed and videoed/photo'd. It was getting late and bird was still pretty far S near barn. I suspected at this time that bird would roost in Smilax jumble at base of a few larger trees to ENE of barn. The bird was relocated on following morning of 01-25 and followed- left notepad at home. Most all foraging sallies were noted to ground, relocating and perching mostly low. Diagnostic video of tail action and photos taken by several during morning observation. The bird was observed taking rather largish prey items such as med.-sized black field crickets and cutworms from ground. Hubert Hervey reported observing the bird arriving to area from field across Wyche rd. to E. during his watch. The bird was relocated on 01-26 at ENE of cattle shed by Devin Bosler at 07:52 am. It captured a large prey item at 0756, noted by Devin (grub or cutworm) Justin Bosler also heard "wseer" call while video-ing bird. The bird was observed by many this day. I quietly arrived at 06:39 on 1-17-07 and stood under pole shed 30' from Smilax thicket. The bird gave a barely audible "whseew" call from Smilax jumble at 06:50, then again at 06:53, gave 2 "wit" calls at 06:55, more at 06:57, then flew out to edge very close by and perched at 4', then relocated unseen. Spotted at 3' again within thicket. It moved back into open at 07:02 briefly with much "whit" calls. I walked away but could still hear "wit" calls from 100 yards. When I returned, bird was closer to rd. At 07:23 bird gave 2 low, dry, short and snappy "ch'pddt" calls. Bird was noted sitting still once w/ no tail action for approx. 2 mins. The bird appears well fed and looks like a fat golf-ball with skinny tail- notably exaggeratedly when fluffing feathers in response to cold, at which times flanks appear somewhat dingy due to raised feathers. The bird was observed stretching and holding rectrices fanned open and sunning on low limb when sun briefly peeked out afternoon of 1-27. It was also observed on different dates disappearing suddenly when any of 2 LOSH flew nearby. Tail action did not seem as evident later in afternoon as well, with shallower arc downward, more notable on upward flick and stiff stop. I followed the bird somewhat off and on through day and showed others around the area. Rosemary Seidler was there studying the bird when I left. There were a few times when "wit" calls seemed a bit close and when fairly-close sounding "wit" calls were heard when other observers appeared to still be watching the bird a good distance away, but I believe it to be extremely unlikely that another Empid is at the locality.



Small passerine, small flycatcher, but large and long-tailed compared to LEFL. The individual also appears pot-bellied and well fed, whitish below w/ notably /pale-yellow-tinged belly,and only very faintly darker at sides of breast. The flanks often appear dingier due to ruffled feathers there. Above, the bird is a dull gray-green w/ slight grayer tinge into sides of neck, often appearing grayer above in less available light. The head is does not appear comparatively large like LEFL. Has notable thin, whitish orbital ring, not blocky at front and back, more evenly rounded than LEFL. Auriculars slightly paler, but like back, lores slightly darker, thin/slightly broader white supraloral line continuing in thin line across base of forehead above bill unlike DUFL. The folded wing has two white wingbars, the lower slightly broader and appears to be faintly tinged w/ yellowish, but not seen well at times- possibly artifact of available light? The tertials are also edged with white. The remiges/tertials/wing panels are slightly darker than mantle, grayish, but rather pale gray compared to LEFL, giving low contrast to wingbars and tertial edging. They also appear slightly paler in primaries, and faintly brownish-tinged. The tail is comparatively long, faintly flaring near tip and unlike straight/equal-sided edge of LEFL. The tail also notably lightly notched. The tail above is approx. color of back, and paler below, and dipped downward and returned to original position frequently. The outer edge of rectrices show thin white line/edge mainly from somewhat above tip to base. (action elim DUFL). The bill is comparatively longish, narrow, orange-yellow below w/ fairly sharply delineated dark, blackish, tip (elim. DUFL w/non-contrasty more diffuse dark tip) and slightly paler blackish-gray above.



Sporadically, the bird was noted to give fairly quick in succession, short, soft, slightly sweet but dry "whit" or "whsit" calls, most often notably having somewhat of "p" sound- given as "pwhit" or "pswhit", but airiness and sibilance mostly always were noted. I agree this call is also faintly 2-noted as Mac Meyers suggested. I think it sounds much like LEFL but not repeated as freq. The bird was also rarely on occasion heard giving high, emphatic, notably tonal, and ascending-at-center "whseew" calls, somewhat like ACFL calls but higher, and without notably more descending ending of ACFL which often sounds somewhat like "whseehrr" or "wee-hoo". Finally, the bird was observed giving 2 short, clipped rather dry "ch'pddt" calls, but only on one occasion on time listed in behavior above.


Similar species:

Least was overall eliminated by the comp. long tail and action, less blocky eye-ring, paler remiges/less contrast, longer, narrower bill w/ dark tip, and overall size. Dusky was eliminated by tail action, less dingy at sides of upper breast, bill color/contrast below, by white edge to tail, and by thin, whitish line across forehead.


Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Photos were sent by Jeff Trahan. Charlie Lyon, Paul Dickson, and the Boslers among others obtained photographic/video recordings as well.


Previous experience with this species: 

None, but have studied intensively at times in years past in case of remote possibility of one being found.

Identification aids:

Memory of Donna Dittman previously mentioning white-edged rectrices and tail action during previous fall was helpful- putting that first and foremost in memory during sighting.


Briefly looked at Nat. Geo 2nd edition- which showed almost exact back color of bird. Sibley, others have been helpful on Empids ing general in past


This description is written from: 

notes taken during observation and memory

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 


Yes. After having much opportunity of observing this bird, especially after tail action, I am also more-so convinced that at least 1 to 2 of birds found in early Nov. of previous year were probably DUFL.


Terry Davis

Date and time: 

1-28-07 10:54 p.m.