Southwest willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) 5.75 inches

Southwest willow flycatcher, USFWS photoWillow flycatchers are divided into four subspecies. The subspecies found in southeast Arizona is named extimus. They inhabit dense riparian woodlands such as the heavily wooded portions of the lower San Pedro river. Being small and rather inconspicuous in appearance, these birds are not often seen in the dense undergrowth that they favor. They love the lowland riparian drainages under the thick cottonwood and willow forests. Arriving in late April through May, they build cup-like nests in the densest band of vegetation. The largest populations of willow flycatchers occur along the Gila river from the New Mexico border to the confluence with the lower San Pedro. Their local populations seem to be declining and would benefit from the restoration of dense riparian habitats along some of our rivers. Field marks are a dark grayish-brown color with indistinct wing markings and a lighter colored belly and throat. The song of this bird is described by birders as a sneezy-sounding fitz-hew or ritz-heyew. The USFWS photo below by Jim Rorabaugh shows the dense thicket habitat that they prefer for nesting.

Southwest willow flycatcher, USFWS photo by Jim Rorabaugh


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.