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A photo of a Hammond's Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii)
Hammond's Flycatcher

Hammond's Flycatcher

Empidonax hammondii

The Hammond's Flycatcher, Empidonax hammondii, is a diminutive bird, measuring 12-14 cm in length with a wingspan of approximately 22 cm and a weight range of 8-12 grams. It is characterized by grayish-olive upperparts, which are darker on the wings and tail, and contrasting whitish underparts. A distinctive white eye ring and white wing bars are notable, along with a small bill and a short tail. The breast is tinged with grey, and the belly sides bear a hint of yellow. Sexual dimorphism is subtle, with females typically sporting a shorter, wider bill than males. Immature birds resemble adults but have broader wing bars and a more buff appearance.

Identification Tips

To distinguish the Hammond's Flycatcher from its congeners, one should pay close attention to its vocalizations, breeding habitat, and range. It is often confused with the Dusky and Gray Flycatchers, which share similar coloration and size, and have overlapping ranges. However, the Hammond's Flycatcher's call, breeding habitat preferences, and geographic distribution are key differentiators.

Habitat

The Hammond's Flycatcher selects mature coniferous and mixed forests for breeding, with a particular affinity for dense fir forests, as well as conifer and aspen woodlands interspersed with dogwood. During winter, it occupies habitats akin to its breeding grounds.

Distribution

This migratory bird breeds in the western regions of North America, including parts of Montana, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, as well as in British Columbia, Yukon, and Alberta in Canada. Some individuals venture as far north as Alaska. The breeding range is largely shaped by historical glaciation events. Come winter, the Hammond's Flycatcher heads to Mexico and Central America.

Behaviour

The Hammond's Flycatcher is a solitary songster, commencing its melodious calls in early May upon arrival at breeding sites. The frequency of its song is heightened early in the mating season and diminishes as summer wanes. Unpaired males are more vocal and sing at a higher frequency than those that have found mates. Aggressive interactions, such as bill-snapping and mandible-clicking, are employed in threatening situations.

Song & Calls

The song of the Hammond's Flycatcher is a hoarse and varied sequence of notes, described as "ssilit, greeep, silit, pweet," while its call is a sharp "peek." Notably, these vocalizations are absent during fall migration and on wintering grounds.

Breeding

Believed to be monogamous, the Hammond's Flycatcher engages in physical combat at the onset of the breeding season, with males locking together midair and fluttering to the ground. Nesting occurs high in tall trees, with a preference for the northeast or southwest sides, shielded by leaves. The species favors old-growth forest for nesting, with trees aged at least 80 to 90 years. The female lays three to four creamy white eggs, sometimes speckled with reddish-brown, in early June. Incubation lasts about 15 days, with both parents feeding the altricial young.

Similar Species

The Hammond's Flycatcher can be mistaken for the Dusky and Gray Flycatchers. Careful observation of behavior, habitat preference, and vocalizations are necessary for accurate identification.

Diet and Feeding

This flycatcher preys on a variety of insects, including beetles, flies, bees, butterflies, and moths, averaging 5.7 mm in length and 1.656 mg in weight. It employs hawking and gleaning techniques to capture its prey, often launching from an open perch in the upper canopy.

Conservation status

The Hammond's Flycatcher is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it does not face immediate threats to its survival.

Hammond's Flycatcher Sounds

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