An aggressive but brilliantly colored bird, the great crested flycatcher is a near look-alike to several similar birds. With practice and a keen eye, however, birders can easily learn to identify this feisty bird by its distinctive song.
Great Crested Flycatcher, Crested Flycatcher
- Bill: Black, thick, heavy
- Size: 8-9 inches long with 13-inch wingspan, large head
- Colors: Light and dark gray, yellow, rufous, white, beige, olive green
- Markings: Male and female birds look alike with a beige or olive green back and a darker gray head with a shaggy crest. The throat and upper breast are gray, while the abdomen and undertail coverts are bright yellow. There are two narrow white wing bars on the drab wings, and both the wings and tail show rufous underparts when flying.
Insects, fruit, berries
Habitat and Migration:
Great crested flycatchers are common summer birds in thick hardwood forests and suburban areas with scattered trees throughout the eastern and central United States and southern Canada. Regular populations can be found as far west as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. These birds migrate to the Gulf Coast of Mexico and throughout Central America in the winter, though year-round populations can be found in the southern tip of Florida.
The great crested flycatcher has several sharp calls, including a repetitive “pip” with discernible pauses between each note as well as a long, rising “cheeep” call. These birds will also use rapid buzzing calls, usually sounded in threes.
The great crested flycatcher is a reclusive bird that usually perches high in heavily wooded areas, where it may hunt insects from its perch. Males are aggressive and territorial, often engaging in aerial battles including clawing at one another and pulling out intruders’ feathers. Because of this aggressive personality, these birds are usually solitary or in pairs during the mating season.
These are monogamous birds and pairs will raise one brood of 6-8 eggs during the nesting season. Incubation lasts 13-15 days and is done primarily by the female parent, but both parents will feed the altricial young birds for 12-21 days until they are ready to leave the nest.
Attracting Great Crested Flycatchers:
Great crested flycatchers will sometimes nest in birdhouses or nesting boxes placed 6-50 feet above the ground. Birders should avoid using any pesticides or insecticides that could eliminate these birds’ primary food sources, and leaving heavy tree cover and dead snags available for perches will encourage birds to remain in the area. These birds also feed on butterflies, so planting a butterfly garden may attract them to the new food source.
- Brown-Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus)
- Ash-Throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)
- Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
- Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans)
Photo – Great Crested Flycatcher © J Jongsma