Gray Flycatchers

Gray Flycatchers (Empidonax wrightii)

The Gray Flycatchers, Empidonax wrightii is a small insect-eating bird.


It is a small Empidonax flycatcher, with typical size ranging from 14-16 cm.

Adults have pale gray upperparts, darker on the wings and tail, with whitish underparts; they have a conspicuous white eye ring, white wing bars, a small bill, and a short tail. The breast is washed with a dull white.

This is the only Empidonax flycatcher that regularly pumps its tail gently downward. Many species of this genus look closely alike. The best way to distinguish species apart is by voice, breeding habitat, and/or range.

Gray Flycatchers Perched on a Tree Branch
Gray Flycatchers Perched on a Tree Branch

Distribution / Range:

Their preferred breeding habitat is arid Sagebrush and pinyon pine of the Great Basin in the western United States. They are frequently found as vagrants in coastal California. A small breeding population extends over the United States border into southernmost British Columbia in Canada.

These birds migrate to Mexico for the winter.


Nesting / Breeding:

The Gray Flycatchers make a cup nest on a fork in a tree, usually low in a horizontal branch. Females usually lay 3-4 eggs.


Diet / Feeding:

Gray Flycatchers wait on an open perch of a shrub or low branch of a tree and fly out to catch insects in flight, also sometimes picking insects from foliage while hovering.

Gray Flycatchers in the Thorn
Gray Flycatchers in the Thorn

Call / Vocalization:

The song is a multi-versed chiwip, wilip, sung together in different combinations. The call is a loud wit.


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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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