06 September 2008

An "Easy" Empid

The Pacific-slope Flycatcher's scientific name is Empidonax difficilis, but I think that's a bit unfair because almost all of the flycatchers in the genus Empidonax (commonly known as "Empids") are difficult to identify. Empids are generally very similar, and very unremarkable. That is part of why it was exciting to find a lifer Empid today. Craig Fosdick and I were hiking in High Creek in search of Dusky Grouse. I had seen several of this species on a hike on the same trail on the same day last year, so I thought it would be worth trying the same place again. We didn't find the Dusky Grouse, unfortunately, but we did see many good birds including two migrating Townsend's Warblers, and Craig did a great job of pishing in an angry flock of Mountain Chickadees, including the one shown in the photo above. But the highlight was the Gray Flycatcher. I've been trying to get better at identifying flycatchers in this notoriously difficult genus, but this bird was relatively easy to identify because of its behavior. Empids all flick their tails upwards, except for this species, which wags its tail gently downwards. We did see several other field marks which confirmed the identification, but this slight difference in behavior was the most convincing, allowing me to add another species to my county year list and to my life list.

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