Saturday, July 7, 2012

Willow vs. Alder Flycatchers

Last month Erika and I photographed this Willow Flycatcher at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We are confident of our identification because the bird was singing "Fitz-bew." Willow and Alder flycatchers overlap in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region (see eBird), and the two species are very difficult to tell apart in the field. Alder Flycatchers, however, sing "Free-beer" and sometimes "Fee-bee-o!" Even in the hand, the two species are nearly identical. Some identification guides suggest that Willow Flycatchers tend to have browner backs than the greener-backed Alders.  Nevertheless, the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) would rather that non-singing birds simply be labeled "Traill's" Flycatchers. Below is a photograph of what I am fairly certain is an Alder Flycatcher but which I reported to the BBL as a "Traill's" (at their insistence). (The bird was banded in May 2008 near Dundas, Minnesota.) I have previously posted on why these two birds are now considered to be separate species. (The song links in this post are used with permission of Thayer Birding Software.)

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