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Willow Flycatcher

willow flycatcher


  • Males and females average about 15 centimetres (6 inches) in length.


    • Medium-dark, brownish olive to grayish olive back and head
    • Two light wing-bars
    • Light underparts with a brownish olive breast band and slight yellow wash to the vent


  • The standard advertising song of the willow flycatcher is a fitz-bew. It will also emit a sharp, dry whit as well a zbew.
  • In Alberta, breeding distribution ranges along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains from the Bow Valley south to Waterton Lakes National Park.
  • Breeding records suggest its range extends north to Jasper and east towards Nordegg, although mainly in the Foothills rather than in the Rocky Mountains.
  • In some areas of North America there have been expansions of the Willow Flycatcher's range northwards, but there is insufficient information to determine any range changes in Alberta.
Natural History


  • In Alberta, this species has historically occupied relatively dry, upland, shrub-dominated sites.
  • As their name would suggest, willow bushes are an integral part of the Willow Flycatcher's habitat.
  • A common feature of most willow flycatcher territories in Alberta is the presence of spruce trees or snags that rise above the canopy amid the willow patch. These trees are used for perching and as launching points for display and foraging flights.


  • This bird is insectivorous and catches insects on the wing.

When Active

  • In general, this flycatcher arrives on its breeding grounds in Alberta in late May, and typically leaves Alberta for its wintering grounds in August.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Males arrive up to two weeks earlier than females to set up territories.
  • Willow Flycatchers build their nests in shrubs at the forks of branches. If shrubs other than willow occur in the nesting habitat, they are selected as alternate nest sites.
  • Three to four eggs are laid and incubated for approximately 16 days.

Growth Process

  • Both parents take part in feeding the nestlings.
  • Fledging occurs after about two weeks.
Conservation and Management


The willow flycatcher is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Also see the Status of the Willow Flycatcher in Alberta report at:


  • Main challenges to species success include:
    • Competition with other flycatcher species
    • Cowbird parasitism
    • Habitat loss and alteration due to road expansion, wetland drainage or cleaning of rail allowances
    • Livestock grazing

Current management

  • Under Alberta's Wildlife Act, the willow flycatcher is designated as a non-game animal and it is illegal to kill or harass individuals or disturb their nests at any time of the year.
  • No specific management for the willow flycatcher has been undertaken in Alberta.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014