Wild Birds

Piratic Flycatchers

Piratic Flycatchers (Legatus leucophaius)


The Piratic Flycatchers, Legatus leucophaius, are a passerine bird and is the only member of the genus Legatus.

Piratic Flycatchers Perched on a Tree Branch
Piratic Flycatchers Perched on a Tree Branch

Distribution / Range:

It is a resident breeder from southern Mexico and Trinidad south to Bolivia and Argentina. At least some birds from Central America and Trinidad are migratory, and this species also visits Tobago.

This tyrant flycatcher is found in savannah and other semi-open habitat with large trees.

Breeding / Nesting

It gets its name because it does not build its own nest, but appropriates the domed or enclosed nests of other, often far larger, bird species, such as Yellow-rumped Cacique or Crested Oropendola.

Once the persistence of the flycatchers has driven the rightful owners away, their eggs are removed, and the female flycatcher lays up to four, but usually two, black-streaked brown eggs.

She incubates these on her own for 16 days to hatching, with a further 18-20 days to fledging.


The adult Piratic Flycatcher is 15 cm long and weighs 23g. The upperparts are unstreaked plain brown, although the flight feathers have narrow white edges.

The head has a long whitish supercilium (line above the eye), a concealed yellow crown stripe, and a dusky mask through the eyes. The throat is white, and there is a white malar (cheek) stripe. The underparts are whitish with blurred brownish streaking on the breast and flanks.

The dark bill is short and broad.

Piratic Flycatchers Perched on a Tree Branch
Piratic Flycatchers Perched on a Tree Branch

Call / Vocalization:

The call is an upslurred weeEEE given from a high perch for long periods of the day, or sometimes a monotonous weep weep weep.

Diet / Feeding:

Piratic Flycatchers wait on an exposed perch high in a tree, occasionally sallying out to feed on fruit, their staple diet. The young are fed on insects.


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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