Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

Before 1973, Alder and Willow Flycatchers were considered to be the same species, and are virtually impossible to tell them apart. The only way to distinguish between them is to listen to their songs.

Willow Flycatchers are small, slender, and grayish-brown with olive tones. Their throats are white and their bellies are gray with yellow tones. They have two whitish wingbars. They have black legs and feet. They hardly have any eyering compared to the white eyerings of most Empidonax flycatchers.

  • Empidonax traillii
  • Length: 5.1 – 6.7 in (13 – 17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4 – 0.6 oz (11 – 16 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5 – 9.4 in (19 – 24 cm)


Willow Flycatchers breed in northwestern states and meadows of the mountainous west before heading to Mexico and Central America. They can also be seen during migration over all US states.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Willow Flycatchers in places with a lot of willows or other shrubby areas near standing or running water. They may also be found in woodland edges and dry, brushy thickets during nesting. In winter, they prefer tropical shrubby clearings and pastures but are always near water.

Willow Flycatchers typically wait on perches on top of shrubs and fly out to catch them midair. At times, they will pick their prey from leaves while they’re hovering. They mostly eat bees, wasps, ants, beetles, butterflies, moths, and flies. They also eat blackberries, raspberries, and currants during fall.

Willow Flycatcher Call:


Nests of Willow Flycatchers are woven together from grasses and plant fibers that are anchored on trees or shrubs two to five feet above the ground. Adding more materials, the female forms a cup which she lines with rootlets, hair, more grass, and other finer materials.

The female lays three to five eggs which she incubates for twelve to fifteen days.

Fun Fact:

Willow Flycatchers are born knowing the song that they’re going to sing. It’s not a learned trait that their parents teach them.