Acadian Flycatcher

by Casey Jones

The Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) is not easily distinguished from its flycatcher relatives by sight. In fact, 15 species of this family (Tyrannidae) were thought to have been the same species when the first member of this species was discovered in present-day Nova Scotia.2 It was not until years later when ornithologists were able to identify different species within this group based on their range and song. The song may also be easily lost in the early spring chorus as it is a simple two-note “peet-sah”.

Oddly enough, the Acadian Flycatcher kept the original name given to this group — although its range did not extend to the Northeast coast of North America.2 The northernmost summer range of the Acadian Flycatcher extends to Massachusetts and the southern reaches of  Michigan and Wisconsin. Perhaps the Least Flycatcher or Willow Flycatcher would have been the species who were mistaken with the Acadian Flycatcher, as the former two species’ ranges extend to Nova Scotia.

The most peculiar habit of this species recorded — or, rather, not recorded — is that there is no documentation of this species walking or hopping on the ground.3 How must it bathe?! Well, it has been observed “diving into water from above, hitting the water with its chest, and then returning to a perch to preen and shake”.3 Despite their maladaptation for life on legs, this bird is a supreme flier — being  documented hovering and even flying backwards!3

1 Audubon Guides. 2009-2010 Green Mountain Digital.
2 iBird Pro. 2012. Mitch Waite Group
3 Whitehead, D. R., and T. Taylor. 2002. Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens). In The Birds of North America, No. 614 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA

Collective nouns include an “outfield”, a “swatting”, a “zapper” and a “zipper” of flycatchers.


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