Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the ash-throated flycatcher.

This flycatcher, myiarchus cinerascens, is a passerine, the largest order of birds, all of which are accommodated by three toes forward and one back for perching. This songbird is identified by its slight, slender build, long brown tail with rust-colored underside, pale gray head and face, yellow to brownish-olive belly and a noticeable peaked crest on its large head. The bill is dark and slim, and two whitish wing bars mark the wing.

Its habitat is desert scrub and riparian, oak and coniferous woodlands. Spring migration occurs from mid-March to mid-May to breeding areas from the western United States to central Mexico, but they can wander beyond, often to the east coast of North America. In fall, migration occurs from August to mid-September to winter grounds from central Mexico to Honduras.

Known as an insectivore, it feeds on insects from the ground or in foliage undergrowth and has also been known to kill small reptiles or mammals by banging them against hard objects. In winter, when insects are scarce, it will consume fruit. As with other desert animals, this flycatcher doesn’t need to drink water, but obtains it through the food it consumes.

Ash-throated flycatchers nest in unusual places — fence posts, clotheslines, pipes and under house eaves — when holes in trees, possibly woodpecker holes, are not available. Nests built by both sexes occur 2-25 feet above ground and have four or five brown and lavender-colored eggs. Both parents gather food and continue to feed the young several days after they fledge.

This songbird population is stable at present.

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