Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Nicky Davis
Photo Copyright Nicky Davis

The willow flycatcher, Empidonax traillii, occurs throughout the northern and central United States during the breeding season, and winters in southern Mexico and Central America. It is a common summer resident in Utah. Breeding sites are in low scrub, thickets, or groves of small trees, often near watercourses. Nests are constructed of plant fibers, dry grasses, and fine plant down; they are often built in willow, rose, or other small riparian trees, usually in a vertical fork. Three or four eggs are laid in mid-April, and are then incubated by the female alone for twelve or thirteen days. Young are probably tended by both parents, and leave the nest about fourteen days after hatching. The willow flycatcher feeds mainly on invertebrates, though some seeds and berries are eaten.

Declines in some willow flycatcher populations have been noted, probably due to the loss of riparian habitats and to increased pressure from the brown-headed cowbird, Molothrus ater, a common nest parasite. A race of the willow flycatcher that occurs in southern Utah, the southwestern willow flycatcher, Empidonax trailii extimus, is now very rare and is Federally listed as endangered.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.