Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) 8.25 inches

Ash-throated flycatcher, USFWS photo by Jim Rorabaugh

Ash-throated Flycatcher, USFWS photo by Jim Rorabaugh

Ash-throated Flycatchers are the most numerous and widespread flycatcher in Arizona. They inhabit arid and brushy areas where they feed mainly on insects, snapping them up with a strong, slender bill. They also enjoy saguaro fruit, berries, mistletoe berries, elderberries, and small lizards.They are fairly common summer residents and are the second most frequently reported breeding bird in Arizona, after the mourning dove. They nest in southeast Arizona in lowland desert washes, sparse woodlands and along Sonoita creek in Patagonia.

Brown overall, this bird sports a bushy top on its head which isn't quite enough to qualify as a crest but gives it a sort of "flat-top" haircut look. In addtion to the light-colored throat which gives it its name, it has a light yellow belly, and rusty-colored tail feathers which are visible from below. Its year-round call is described as a police whistle-like prrrt, with a mating call that is a series of ka-bricks.

Some of these flycatchers spend the winter in southern Arizona, but many more are migratory and arrive here between March and late April and generally head south through October and November. They nest in many arid habitats including Sonoran desert scrub, lightly-wooded washes, and mesquite bosques. They seem to avoid heavily wooded forests and high elevations such as the White Mountains and the Mogollon Rim. All Myiarchus species nest in cavities so it is often difficult to spot their nests.

References:

Alderfer, Jonathan (ed.). Field Guide to Birds: Arizona and New Mexico. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006. This handy, pocket-size (4x6) guide includes most of the birds you're likely to see in Arizona. In addition to a photo, it includes information about behavior, habitat and specific local sites where you are likely to find the bird.

Corman, Troy E. and Cathryn Wise-Gervais (eds.) Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.