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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Willow Flycatcher -- Empidonax traillii


RANGE: Breeds from central British Columbia and southern Alberta east to southern Wisconsin, southern Quebec, central Maine, and Nova Scotia south to southern California, western and central Texas, Arkansas, northern Georgia, and central and eastern Virginia. Winters in Mexico and Central America.

STATUS: Common; population is generally stable or increasing throughout its range.

HABITAT: Occurs in a variety of habitats ranging from brushy fields to willows, thickets along streams, prairie woodlots, shrubby swales, and open woodland edges. Prefers edge habitats that include thickets or groves of small trees and shrubs surrounded by grasslands, as well as the edges of gallery forests along rivers or streams. In areas where its range overlaps that of the alder flycatcher, prefers drier, smaller, more open shrubby habitat.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Fairly open and well-spaced shrubby habitats.

NEST: Nests usually in horizontal forks or upright crotches of shrubs or small trees, usually between 3 to 25 feet above the ground, averaging about 4 to 6 feet. Commonly nests in dogwood, hawthorn, willow, buttonbush, elder, viburnum, and blackberry. Places nest at the outer edge of a shrub or thicket, so it can be easily approached.

FOOD: Eats flying insects.

REFERENCES: Bent 1942, DeGraff et al. 1980, Eckert in Farrand 1983b, Holcomb 1972, Johnsgard 1979, King 1955, Stein 1958, Tate and Tate 1982, Walkinshaw 1966.


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