Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vermillion Flycatcher

At Big Bend National Park’s Panther Junction campground, we discovered several Vermillion Flycatchers. These are among our favorite birds, and not only because of their brilliant plumage. When we were much younger, in 1970, Erika and I studied field ecology in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We camped out for two months near Quitobaquito and William’s Springs. These days you need reservations and an armed guard to visit these border areas.

In the national monument, we watched a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers nest in a large cottonwood at Quitobaquito. The male made high display flights, singing the whole time, while the female incubated. When she left the nest, she was soundly scolded by the male. We were impressed by this domestic behavior, but did not realize it had not been described in the ornithological literature. Someone else wrote about it the next year.

Vermillion Flycatchers are found from the American southwest to Argentina and Peru. In Lima, black morphs exist. The advantage to being all black is uncertain, as is why other populations do not show this dimorphism.

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