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BIRDS » WATERBIRDS
Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher
Empidonax virescens

This engaging little flycatcher of moist streamside, and bottomland hardwood forest is the most abundant of the Empidonax flycatchers found in Tennessee. The Acadian Flycatcher, as with other members of this genus, is best identified by song. The explosive peet-sah, and its high-pitched twitter as it flies from perch to perch, are both distinctive. It breeds in the eastern United States southward to the upper Gulf Coast and northern Florida; in winter, it migrates to southern Central America and northern South America. It is present in Tennessee from late April to late September.

Description: Small flycatcher with a prominent pale eyering and wingbars. It has a flat forehead and there is a distinct peak on the rear of the crown. The back is greenish, and the chest and belly are pale whitish, often with a pale yellow wash. The bill is broad and the lower mandible yellowish.
Length: 5.75"
Wingspan: 9"
Weight: 0.46 oz

Voice: The song is an explosive peet-sah, and a high-pitched twitter is often given when flying from perch to perch.

Similar Species:

  • Empidonax flycatchers all look similar and are best distinguished by voice.
  • Eastern Wood-Pewees are brownish-green, have no or only a weak eyering, and have gray smudges on the undertail coverts. Their song resembles their name, pee-wee.

Habitat: Acadian Flycatchers breed in moist, predominantly deciduous forest, usually along wooded streams and moist ravines. In West Tennessee, they are also found in forested wetlands. In winter, they are found in lowland tropical forest and second growth.

Diet: Insects, insect larvae, and other arthropods.

Nesting and reproduction: In Tennessee, peak egg laying is in late May. Second broods have not been reported in the state.

Clutch Size: Usually 2 to 3 eggs.

Incubation: The female incubates the eggs for 13 to 15 days.

Fledging: Both parents feed the young, which fledge when about 14 days old.

Nest: The small cup-shaped nest is built by the female in the fork of a small, horizontal tree limb, usually far from the trunk. It is made of dried grasses, small twigs, and fine bark strips, and held together with spider webs. Nest heights in Tennessee ranged from 3 to 40 feet, with an average of 13 feet above the ground.

Status in Tennessee: The Acadian Flycatcher is a fairly common summer resident across the state, found in moist deciduous forest, usually along wooded streams and in moist ravines. They are one of the most abundant species in forested wetlands in West Tennessee. Acadian Flycatchers arrive by late April and depart by late September. Populations appear to be stable.

Dynamic map of Acadian Flycatcher eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • The Acadian Flycatcher is extremely maneuverable in flight and is able to hover and even fly backwards!
  • Unlike most birds that bathe by standing in water and splashing themselves, the Acadian Flycatcher will hit the water with its chest while in flight, and then go to a perch to shake and preen.
  • The characteristic peet-sah song is usually used by the male to defend his territory. The female will occasionally use it in stressful situations, such as when disturbed from the nest.
  • Acadian Flycatchers are sometimes hosts to the brood-parasitic Brown-headed Cowbird, which lays its eggs in other birds' nests. This species however, is not a very good host: only 16% of cowbird young in Acadian Flycatcher nests fledged successfully.
  • The oldest known Acadian Flycatcher in the wild was 10 years, 1 month old.

Obsolete English Names: green-crested flycatcher

Best places to see in Tennessee: Most any moist forest, including bottomland hardwood forest in West Tennessee and along wooded streams and moist ravines in Middle and East Tennessee.

For more information:

Sources:

Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Whitehead, D. R. and T. Taylor. 2002. Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens), The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.


Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.