Thursday, May 29, 2014

Least Flycatcher

In late May, I photographed this Least Flycatcher in a field near the Cannon River Wilderness Area in Rice County, Minnesota. Although facing away from me, the bird turned its head 180 degrees, making the head appear to be attached backwards on its body.

There are a couple of odd things about Least Flycatchers. The birds, when breeding, tend to cluster their small territories. The flycatchers vigorously defend these territories against other species, such as redstarts and cowbirds. As a result, cowbirds only infrequently parasitize Least Flycatchers. Another strange thing is that Least Flycatcher adults wait to molt until after they arrive in their wintering grounds. Birds of the year molt either before they leave the breeding areas or during migration. Ornithologists do not understand this difference, but speculate that the adults need to arrive early in the wintering areas to quickly establish winter territories (Tarof and Briskie 2008).

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