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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Least Flycatcher -- Empidonax minimus

RANGE: Breeds from southern Yukon and west-central and southern Mackenzie to southern Quebec and New Brunswick, south to southern British Columbia and central Montana, across to southwestern Missouri, northern Ohio, and central New Jersey; in the Appalachians to northwestern Georgia. Winters in Mexico and Central America; also casually in southern California, southern Texas, and Florida.

STATUS: Common; population is declining slightly in parts of its range.

HABITAT: Associated with open deciduous forests, where it occurs along forest edges, burns, and clearings, floodplain forests, open shrublands, wooded margins of lakes and roads, orchards, shelterbelts, overgrown pastures, urban parks, and gardens.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Intermediate openness in the understory of open deciduous woodlands, and some edge habitat for nesting and feeding.

NEST: Nests in upright crotch or on horizontal fork of deciduous or coniferous trees, usually saplings or small trees, including birch, red pine, cedar, apple, dogwood, oak, sugar maple, willow, and alder. Tends to nest at the edge of a clearing 10 to 20 feet above the ground, but will nest from 2 to 60 feet.

FOOD: Feeds mainly on flying insects, most of which are caught on the wing, but some are gleaned from vegetation. Also takes a few fruits and seeds.

REFERENCES: Beal 1912, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, de Kirilene 1948, Tate and Tate 1982.

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