Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 201

Common name:

Least Flycatcher

Scientific name: Empidonax minimus
Date: June 13, 2012
Time: 9:00
Length of time observed: 1 1/2 hours over three visits
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Weber River, Ogden
County: Weber
Latilong: 3
Elevation: 4318
Distance to bird: 15-75 feet
Optical equipment: 8 x 42 binoculars
Weather: clear and sunny, 80's
Light Conditions: bright
Description:        Size of bird: small; about 5 inches
(Description:)       Basic Shape: songbird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: dull gray with darker tints upper; dull whitish with gray or yellow tints under
(Description:)            Bill Type: narrow aerial insect gleaner
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Bill small to medium for a flycatcher; impression that it was bigger than a Hammond's bill. Lower mandible entirely yellow; upper entirely dark. Neither wide nor narrow at base. Rictal bristles apparent. Head pale gray and large in proportion to body. Crown rounded in all views. Eye black, round, large. White eyering obvious and appeared to circle eye entirely; could not clearly see the shape of it. Gave the bird a wide-eyed appearance like a Townsend's Solitaire. Back a slightly darker shade of gray than the head. Wings dark gray and not washed out, clearly contrasting with two relatively strong whitish wing bars for an empid. Couldn't get a clear impression of the primary projection. Tail somewhat long, narrow and notched. Dark gray like the wings.

Underparts: Throat whitish and distinct from the gray sides of the head. Diffuse wide band of gray tint across the upper breast, fading to whitish tinted with yellow on the belly. Didn't see the undertail coverts. Leg color gray.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Called che-bec almost constantly, more frequently than once per second. First heard from 50-75 yards away. Tone was snappy and brusque with stronger emphasis on the "bec". Threw its head back abruptly with each repetition of the call and dipped the tail a tiny bit. Bird sang less during an evening visit from 5:30-7:00 pm.
Behavior: Actively calling back from the opposite river embankment from observer. No visual observation in first visit of 30 minutes, but heard it constantly. Bird responded to recorded playback of Least Flycatcher call on second visit after three run-throughs of Stokes', and flew to my side of the river. Rarely flicked the tail. Very actively changed perches and flycaught or just called from perches. Stayed high in mature cottonwoods most of the time, but also came to lower trees along the river embankment. Plucked an unripe red osier dogwood berry once and then dropped it. He responded to a playback a second time by flying across the river toward me just a few feet from my head. Returned to my side of the river twice without being prompted by a playback. Chased a Yellow Warbler.
Habitat: Mixed cottonwood gallery forest along a river. Seemed to prefer an area of large dead cottonwoods. Sang from a couple feet off the ground to 40-45 feet off the ground
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Nearly constant snappy che-bec song eliminates all other species.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
One previous Utah sighting at Mantua, 2010; also the most common empid from my New England childhood, which I barely remember anymore.
References consulted: Kaufmann, 2011
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Kristin Purdy
Observer's address: Ogden, UT
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Paul Higgins
Date prepared: June 14, 2012
Additional material: Photos - Paul Higgins images taken on June 15
Additional_Comments: Notes taken (6/13) independently of photos (taken on 6/14).