Though most flycatchers are unremarkably drab, the vermilion flycatcher is the most colorful flycatcher in North America. The males are unmistakable with their brilliant red plumage, and even the females have strong washes of color that make them stand out.
- Bill: Short, straight, black
- Size: 6 inches long with 9.5-inch wingspan, small crest
- Colors: Red, brown, black, buff, white
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a bright red head and underparts with a thick dark eye line that connects to the brownish black back, wings and tail. Females are a lighter brown on the head and back, with slightly darker wings and tail. The chin and throat are white, and the white chest has blurred buff streaking. Females may show a faint white eyebrow and a buff wash on the lower abdomen that becomes yellow or pinkish on the undertail coverts.
Habitat and Migration:
Vermilion flycatchers prefer open arid or semiarid habitats with brushy growth, and they are frequently found near riparian areas in these dry climates, including near artificial water sources such as irrigation ditches and water treatment facilities. These birds are found year round in Mexico and South America as far south as Argentina, while summer populations may stray into southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In the winter, northern populations migrate to the Gulf Coast of Mexico and to interior regions of South America, primarily in Brazil.
Vermilion flycatchers have a high, rapid “pip-pip-pip-pip” song that lasts roughly 10 syllables and increases in tempo at the end. They also have a sharp, “peeeent” trill call.
These are tame birds but generally remain solitary or in pairs. While foraging, they will perch in an open area and watch for insects, which they then hover to catch. They perch low in shrubs and small trees, dipping their tails distinctively.
Vermilion flycatchers are monogamous. The female parent will incubate a brood of 2-4 eggs for 14-15 days, and both parents work to feed the altricial young for an additional 15 days until the fledglings are ready to leave the nest. A mated pair can raise 2 broods per year.
Attracting Vermilion Flycatchers:
These birds do not regularly visit backyard feeders, but they will come to yards that offer a water source such as a pond or birdbath. Birders who plant shrubs and low trees will give vermilion flycatchers a place to perch, and avoiding pesticide and insecticide sprays will give the birds a ready food source.
- Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)
- Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
- Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava)
Photos – Vermilion Flycatcher – Male, Female © Joan Gellatly