Idaho Tyrannids – Photo Study

I was able to gather quite a few photos of the flycatchers and kingbirds of Idaho by visiting migrant hot-spots often, as well as being able to go birding everyday. Below, I have put together my best photos of most of the flycatchers of Idaho. The flycatchers are notoriously difficult to identify, and although I am by no means an expert, I have included some identification tips along with each species.

Lets start with the toughest first; Dusky Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, and Willow Flycatcher. These five empids are very, very similar, but are not impossible to distinguish, even when they aren’t vocalizing. The Dusky has a longer profile, with very short primary-feather projection and a long tail. The Hammond’s seems more compact-looking, with longer primary-feather projection, and a shorter tail. The Gray Flycatcher has a much duller coloration (hence ‘gray’) and otherwise seems very similar to the Dusky in shape and size. The Cordilleran Flycatcher is similar in size and profile to the Hammond’s but is very different in coloration; showing a brownish back, very yellow-ish breast, and a tail that is darker in color than the bird’s back. I also think the Cordilleran has a more distinct eye-ring than the other empids. The Willow Flycatcher is tall and long, like the Dusky, but has a darker brown back and very yellow lower mandible.

Dusky Flycatcher - Chester Dam, Idaho

Hammond's Flycatcher - near Malad City, ID

Gray Flycatcher - Duck Valley, NV

Cordilleran Flycatcher - Foote Park, ID

Willow Flycatcher - C. J. Strike WMA, ID

Next is my personal favorite flycatcher; the Olive-sided Flycatcher. This species is almost always seen at the top of a dead snag, singing it’s famous “Quick, three beers!” song. The very dark ‘vest’ on the front of this bird makes it almost impossible to mistake for any other flycatcher.

Olive-sided Flycatcher - Cascade Lake, ID

Similar in shape to the Olive-sided Flycatcher, but much smaller and more common, is the Western Wood-Pewee. This species is taller than the empids and shows a notched tail and dusky-colored breast. It also lacks an eye-ring.

Western Wood-Pewee - Foote Park, ID

I know these next two are pretty obvious to identify, but I have included them since they are not only awesome birds but also very commonly encountered Idaho-Tyrannids; the Western Kingbird and Eastern Kingbird. Also, I think its so cool that here in Idaho you can see both the eastern AND western!

Western Kingbird - Indian Creek Reservoir, ID

Eastern Kingbird - Blacks Creek Reservoir (Photo by Anna Fasoli)