English and Scientific names:

Gray Flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii)

Number of individuals: 

1 immature (SY)

Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

Cattle lot at the NE corner of jct. Wyche and Deen Point Rds., ca. 4 mi. SE of Benton

Date(s) when observed:

26 January 2008

Time(s) of day when observed:  

7:52-9:40 AM CST

Reporting observer and address:

Justin Bosler  827 C E. Boyd Dr., Baton Rouge, LA

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

Terry Davis and Devin Bosler

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

Clyde Massey, Mac Hardy, and Larry Raymond, plus m.ob.

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

Fair, morning light with heavy overcast sky, intermittent fog, and occasional drizzle.  Given our close proximity, the poor to mediocre conditions did not constrain a thorough study of the bird.

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss Victory FL 8x42 binocular (good condition) and Nikon Fieldscope 60ED w/ 45x optical zoom (fair condition)   

Distance to bird(s): 

As close as 10 meters, but consistently a good 20-25 meters.

Duration of observation:

Approximately 1 hour and 48 minutes.


Heavily grazed cattle lot and pasture with a large hay shed and a few scattered trees; however, most trees were along the fence lines and narrow shelterbelts.  These shelterbelts contained green ash, sugarberry, honey locust, Chinese tallow, and oaks among others.  Greenbrier was the dominant understory vegetation along these edges.  The short grass around the hay shed and bisecting shelterbelt particularly chewed up by high cattle traffic; very muddy and rutted as a result.  

Behavior of bird: 

The flycatcher was initially located in the AM by its characteristic loud, dry “whit” call notes.  Call notes that are similar to those of Least Flycatcher (LEFL), but delivered in slower succession (not rapid like LEFL).  While continuing to call at steady intervals, it was observed actively sallying to the ground for terrestrial insects, which included field crickets, grubs, and other unidentified critters.  It was a task for the flycatcher to swallow the larger crickets.  After consuming larger prey it would often remain perched for at least a couple of minutes before targeting its next meal.  The exaggerated, downward tail pumping while perched was very phoebe-like.  In fact, many of its behaviors were reminiscent of those of phoebes.  It moved around to various edges and remained relatively close to the ground for a majority of the time.  On occasion, it ventured out to the open pasture and used greenbrier(?) stems as elevated perches.  It was still calling away when we left the cattle lot around 9:40 AM. 


An overall pale olive-gray Empidonax flycatcher with smallish head and relatively long, narrow bill, short primary projection, and tail proportionately long.  The head was fairly rounded and pale olive-gray.  Most distinct about the head/face was the whitish eye-ring and whitish supraloral patch, extending from the base of the upper mandible to the eye-ring.  The throat was indistinctly paler than the rest of the underparts.  The breast was whitish with pale dusky sides and the belly and flanks had a pale yellowish wash.  The upperparts were pale olive-gray.  The folded wing revealed two prominent, buffy wing bars and pale edges on the secondaries.  A whitish outer web was noted on the outer rectrix set.  The tail was horribly worn, which is indicative of an SY individual in Jan-Feb.  The buffy wing bars and yellowish wash to the belly are also good marks for immature birds.  The upper mandible was entirely black, while the lower mandible was mostly dull orange/flesh with a well-demarcated black tip.  The legs were blackish.


A loud, liquid “whit” given repeatedly, but spaced equally over a 2-3 second interval.  A drawn out liquid gurgle was heard at least once.  These were excited notes that had a sharp, sputtering quality.

Similar species:

Most Empidonax flycatchers are superficially similar.  However, using distinct structural and plumage traits, along with unique behaviors and vocalizations, one can reach a positive species identification.  Most Eastern empids could be eliminated by date of occurrence, although LEFL is an exception.  LEFL eliminated by overall darker, more contrasty plumage; relatively short bill; short tail; whispier (higher) and more repetitious “whit” notes; and excited flicking of tail.  Hammond’s Flycatcher eliminated by darker, contrasy plumage; small dark bill; long wings; and ‘pip’ call note.  Dusky Flycatcher eliminated by darker brownish-olive upperparts; duskier markings on the breast; and subtle flicking of tail and wings.  The deep, downward tail pumping of the Gray Flycatcher (GRFL) broadly eliminates all Empidonax spp.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Digiscoped photos obtained by Justin Bosler, and they are attached.

Previous experience with this species: 

Observed in several Western states from TX to ID, but most experience gained with this species during an entire summer in nw. NV.

Identification aids:

No ID aids used during observation.

NG Complete Birds of N.A. (Alderfer, 2006) used after the observation.

This description is written from: 

notes taken during the observation, after the observation, and memory.

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


Yes, 100% positive


Justin Bosler   

Date and time: 

14 March 2008    12:20 AM