Mystery Flycatcher

Mystery Flycatcher photo composite
Mystery Flycatcher photo composite

My son pointed this bird out to me this morning as we were on our way to Totem Park. It was perched at the very top of a mid-sized Sitka Spruce and I saw it do a flycatching loop once or twice before it seemed to vacate its spot when a Merlin flew by, after which we continued on to the park.

It was too far (high) to get a very good look, even with binoculars, but based on what I had seen, I was confident that it was a flycatcer, and thought it might be a Western Wood-Pewee based on behavior and an impression of size/shape (that is, it seemed a bit to small/squat for an Olive-sided Flycatcher based on my very limited experience).

When we got back a while later, we saw the bird had moved to a snag not too far from where we had first observed it. Though the light was better, the new preferred perch was even higher and further back than the first had been. I watched it for a while several different times during the day, and it was still actively flycatching from the snag until around sunset at least. The first time I saw it there was shortly before noon, so it had been there for at least 8 hours, and probably a couple more.

Though the bird was too far away for any chance of a quality photo, I took many in hopes that they would show enough details to allow for a better chance at a positive identification. I have included the best of these in the composite shown above. My best guess is still Western Wood-Pewee. The behavior certainly fits. However, some of its plumage characteristics raise questions in my mind. In particular, it seems to be rather pale breasted, the wing bars seem to be a more pronounced than I might expect, and there’s a pale area between the eye and the bill. Still, I’m not sure what else it could be. I wouldn’t be surrprised if these questions can be explained with lighting and/or variability in the species, so I’m hoping others with more flycatcher experience might help me out.

2 thoughts on “Mystery Flycatcher”

  1. I think a pewee is a good guess. Your bird looks a lot like my eastern pewees. It doesn’t look like an olive-sided flycather to me. They appear to have a dark “vest” on their chests.

  2. Thanks for the response! It’s nice to get other perspectives when I’ve only seen a bird a limited number of times before (in this case, once).

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