English and Scientific names:

Gray Flyctcher    Empidonax wrightii

Number of individuals: 

One, fall/winter plumage

Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

This bird was located in a cattle lot on the northeast corner of the intersection of Wyche Road and Deen Point Road about three miles south of Benton Louisiana.

Date(s) when observed:

January 24, 2008.

Time(s) of day when observed:  

11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and again for a few minutes at Noon.

Reporting observer and address:

Jeffrey Trahan

Shreveport, LA

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

Terry Davis

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

Charlie Lyon (January 24, 25), Paul Dickson (January 25), Jim Ingold (January 25) and others.


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

We saw the bird in the middle of the day; the sun was high in the sky; the day was partly cloudy. Light conditions were very good for viewing the bird.


Optical equipment: 

Leica 10x42 and a Kowa spotting scope

Distance to bird(s): 

My closest distance to the bird was about 30 feet.

Duration of observation:

A total of about forty minutes.


A cattle lot with trees growing in the fence lines and also scattered in the lot. A very large field for grazing cattle was adjacent to and east of this cattle lot. The majority of trees were honey locust with some larger oak trees in the vicinity. Since this was January, none of these trees had leaves. There was a considerable amount of grass between the trees and many cow droppings. There was a shed with a tin roof but no walls which was apparently used for storing hay at one time. The bird was first observed in a tree in the vicinity of this shed.

Behavior of bird: 

The bird spent most of its time within about ten feet of the ground. It flew from tree to tree perching on the lower branches of the trees. It often flew from one of these lower branches to the ground to feed and then return to that branch or another one in the vicinity. The most important aspect of its behavior was that when perched, it pumped its tail like a phoebe does. This was not a small flick of the tail, but a dip in the downward direction, from the rest position through an angle estimated to be 60 to 80 degrees. Although I am not certain, it appeared to remain within the vicinity--an area of two or three acres (just an estimate). During the Noon observation of the bird, it was located in the very large cattle pasture to the east of this cattle lot. Out there, there were no trees, but it perched on various small swithces about three feet high. Even here, however, it remained within about 100 yards (also an estimate) of the cattle lot and the fence line where many trees grow.


From its overall appearance, this bird was an empidonax flycatcher. It had an overall grayish appearance; a slight dull green tinge on the back; paler below with a slight cast of yellow on the belly. It had two somewhat buffy wing bars and a pale eye ring. The upper mandible was black; the lower mandible orange except near the tip where it was black. There was a relatively sharp delineation between the black and the orange on the lower mandible. It appeared to have a grayish set of "spectacles" that went from the forward end of the eye ring, over the top of the bill, and to the forward end of the other eye ring. When perched, I could see a small amount of white along the side edges of the tail.


Although Terry Davis said he could hear the bird "whit", I could not hear it because my hearing at high frequencies is impaired.

Similar species:

Similar species include other empidonax flycatchers. However, this species is distinct from the others because it is the only one that pumps its tail like a phoebe when perched. Of course, this bird was observed pumping its tail which identifies this bird as a Gray Flycatcher rather than one of the other species of this genus. Both Charlie Lyon and Paul Dickson obtained video of the tail pumping on January 25.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

I first photographed the bird from the road using a Cannon 20D camera with a 400 mm f/5.6 Cannon lens. Later, Terry went through the barbed wire fence with my camera and got photos of the bird somewhat closer.

Previous experience with this species: 


Identification aids:

at time of observation:

        National Geographic--Field Guide to the Birds of North America. However this bird was identified before we used the field guide. Terry Davis had it correctly identified within 30 seconds of the initial observation. He makes a serious study of birds that might one day appear in Louisiana and was prepared to quickly identify this bird.

after observation:  The Sibley Guide to Birds


This description is written from: 

Partly from notes taken at the time of observation and notes made within about two hours of observation and from memory.


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




Jeff Trahan

Date and time: 

January 26, 2008

11:00 a.m.