Least Flycatcher?

Least Flycatcher?Least Flycatcher? – Nikon D300, f8, 1/400, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I was going to do a post today on the wrens that were using the same nesting tree as the Williamson’s Sapsuckers that I posted yesterday but after culling 3290 images I was flat worn out, I’ll do that post tomorrow hopefully.

Today I am posting what I believe to be a Least Flycatcher that was perched in an evergreen along a road in Idaho.  I might be mistaken on the ID so any help would be appreciated. I don’t feel bad about not being certain of the ID because even experts have a hard time with Empids. I can rule out several Empids because of their geographic ranges but that leaves Least, Hammond’s, Dusky, Gray, Cordilleran and Pacific-slope Flycatchers.

I think I can rule out Willow because they are brownish and have a weak eyering and my bird has a strong eyering. I think I can rule out Hammond’s because they have a long primary projection (wing tip length)  and my empid seems to have a short primary projection. I’ve photographed Gray Flycatchers and this bird was smaller plus it didn’t wag its tail up and down like Gray Flycatchers do. Dusky Flycatchers have low contrast edges on their wing feathers and my bird has contrasting dark tertials and coverts with light edges. Pacific-slope Flycatchers are rare in the area that I photographed this bird so I believe I can rule it out.

So that leaves Cordilleran and Least Flycatchers. Sibley’s Guide to birds shows the Cordilleran as being brownish-olive overall with the brownest coloration on the rump while my bird is mostly gray with olive on its back which is how Sibley describes the Least Flycatcher.

Whether I am right or wrong with my ID on this empid I know that I am not alone in the Empid ID Enigma!

Addendum: I was asked about the range map for Least Flycatchers being in Idaho, I’m attaching a screen shot of a map my friend Terry did for Least Flycatchers that shows the range extending just into the tip of Clark County, Idaho which is where I photographed this bird just a few miles south of the Montana state line. Terry’s full range map can be seen here.



PS, I am pretty sure I heard the “chewbek” call of the Least Flycatcher while photographing other subjects near this bird.

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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Humming Bird Lover

    Hi! beautiful shot! Love your talent and photo’s Have a great day!!!! It is so pretty.

  2. Mia,
    I have followed your bird photography for a long time although I have never commented before. Check out this short and sweet blog post from an expert birder about empid ID. He makes it simple as least for NW flycatchers, especially if you have other photos and angles of this bird.


    Good birding,
    Ken Trease

  3. Thanks for letting me know about the update, Mia. It is always good to know more migration info from expert birders.

  4. Great setting shot for that bird Mia, and the bird is lovely too. I think your Least ID is spot on!

  5. I can’t help you with the ID – so will just revel in its charm. Thank you.

  6. No help from me either, but the photograph is truly lovely and so is your Flycatcher!

  7. Jeremy and Julie, I added a screen shot of a map my very knowledgeable friend Terry did for Least Flycatchers that shows the range extending just into the tip of Clark County, Idaho which is where I photographed this bird just a few miles south of the Montana state line. This bird might be on the very edge of its range if it is a Least Flycatcher.

    Thank you for your comments, Wally, Jeremy, Al, Bob, Montanagirl and Jolanta!

  8. As I discover with each passing day, I’m not an expert in bird identification. I love your outstanding photograph of a beautiful flycatcher. For me, at this time, that is enough.

    Take care, Mia. I continue to love your artistry.

  9. Great photo Mia! Empids are always tough, especially trying to id them from one photo. I’m curious where in Idaho this was taken, as Julie mentioned, the range maps show Least in the northern and eastern part of the state in spring/summer.

  10. No help here in the I.D., but it sure is a cute little thing.

  11. darling little birdie :)

  12. That is super, Mia.

  13. That seems like a pretty thorough analysis, Mia. The eye-ring jumps out to me, but I agree that the Empids are a tough group to ID. The challenge is always fun, however. This is a good find for you isn’t it? According to the Sibley Guide, Least Flycatchers do not normally migrate through Idaho?

  14. Pretty Flycatcher, the best Mia.

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