I know the long days of summer are nearly upon us when I hear the enchanting song of the Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) in my yard.
I noticed this pair bringing nesting material to a nest box on one of my bluebird trails a couple of weeks ago. The Ash=throated Flycatcher is one of those birds that are usually heard before they are seen. As a matter of fact, it is sometimes hard to locate them even after hearing their call for some reason, even though they often perch in one location for long periods of time. Click on photos for full sized images.
Ash-throated Flycatchers are cavity nesters that readily accept man-made nest boxes. They use the same size box as my Western Bluebirds with a 1 1/2″ entrance hole. They usually lay four or five smooth, creamy white or ivory, slightly glossy eggs with elongated blotches in purplish-red, reddish-brown, lilac or gray.
The breeding pairs on my trails have always laid four eggs, so this clutch is not yet complete.
Ash-throated Flycatchers are found across much of western North America in habitats varying from desert scrub to riparian forest. They can tolerate the high temperatures we get in the Sacramento Valley of California and other arid locations because they don’t need to drink water. This map, courtesy of Birds of North America Online, shows their distribution.
These graceful flycatchers are highly opportunistic nesters and will use almost any natural or artificial cavity, size permitting, that are at least a foot above ground. Presumably, where cavity availability is limited or competition for cavities is high, Ash-throated Flycatchers will immediately occupy cavities as soon as they are vacated by other species1.
I took my favorite photo to date of this beautiful bird after finding a pair nesting in a natural cavity of a large oak tree at Turtle Bay. He or she had captured a praying mantis and was about to enter the nest cavity to feed the chicks.
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References: 1Birds of North America Online