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Kashmir Flycatcher

Ficedula subrubra

The Kashmir flycatcher, Ficedula subrubra, is a diminutive passerine, a member of the flycatcher family Muscicapidae. It is closely related to the red-breasted flycatcher, Ficedula parva, its nearest living kin. The male Kashmir flycatcher is particularly striking with its black-bordered, reddish throat.

Identification Tips

Males of this species boast a grey-brown back and a vivid orange-red throat, breast, and flanks, with a distinctive black border on the throat and breast. Females and juveniles are slightly more subdued, with browner upperparts and a reduced redness on the underparts, sometimes presenting merely as a pinkish wash. The female's tail is darker than her back, with white on the lower basal half of the outer feathers. The taiga flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, is similar but lacks the black border and has the reddish-orange confined to the throat and upper breast.

Habitat

The Kashmir flycatcher breeds in the Himalayas, favoring forests at altitudes between 1800–2400 meters, often in mixed broadleaved woodlands rich with Perrottetia and Corylus.

Distribution

This species is indigenous to the north-west Himalayas, particularly the Kashmir region. It is migratory, spending winters in the hills of central Sri Lanka, the Nilgiris, and the Western Ghats of India.

Behaviour

The Kashmir flycatcher typically leaves its breeding grounds in September, arriving in Sri Lanka in October and returning in late March. Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya is an excellent location to observe this rare bird. It exhibits the characteristic flycatcher behavior of flicking its tail upwards while perched.

Song & Calls

The male's song is a melodious and brief 'sweet-eet sweet-eet-did-he'. Its calls include a sharp 'chak' and a harsh rattling 'trrr', often accompanied by wing flicking and tail movement.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in May and June. The Kashmir flycatcher nests in tree holes, typically less than a meter above the ground, lining them with moss, bark, and hair. The female lays 3-5 pale green eggs, speckled with reddish-brown, and incubates them herself.

Similar Species

The taiga flycatcher is the species most similar to the Kashmir flycatcher, but it can be distinguished by the absence of a black border around the reddish-orange throat and breast.

Diet and Feeding

As an insectivorous bird, the Kashmir flycatcher feeds on a variety of insects, which it often catches in flight.

Conservation status

The Kashmir flycatcher is classified as Vulnerable, with a declining population estimated between 2,500 and 10,000 individuals. Its breeding range is not only decreasing but also severely fragmented due to the destruction of temperate mixed deciduous forests for timber, agriculture, and livestock grazing.

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