Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2014-018a

Common name:

Least Flycatcher

Scientific name: Empidonax minimus
Date: 6 Jun 2014
Time: 6:12 PM
Length of time observed:  ~5 minutes
Number: 1  [later for three - additional material]
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: Newton Reservoir (town of Newton)
County: Cache
Distance to bird: ~15 feet
Optical equipment: Nikon Monarch 10x42 binoculars and SLR with 80-400mm lens
Weather: Sunny, warm.
Light Conditions: Bright direct sunlight sometimes diffused by clouds but the bird was frequently in the dappled light of the mid-story in cottonwoods.
Description:        Size of bird:  
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  
(Description:)  Overall Pattern:  
(Description:)            Bill Type:  
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Smallish Empidonax flycatcher. Primary projection too short for wood-pewees. See description below, photos, and audio recording for further details.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: First heard giving simple "whit" or "wheet" call notes that were not familiar to me, but did not sound the same as Empid calls with which I am familiar, including Dusky, Gray, Cordilleran, and Hammond's. (I have seen Least Flycatcher on only a few occasions and typically identified it by song.) Thinking this was probably the Least Flycatcher that had been found at the same location the day before, I broadcast a bit of Least Flycatcher song. After a brief pause (about 30 seconds) the bird approached my position and started singing emphatically, regularly giving the distinct "che-BEK! che-BEK!" song that the species is known for. In about five minutes of observation, the song did not vary, and there were no other notes included. There was a lot of background noise (campers running generators, ATVs, loud music, etc.) so I didn't bother to bring my recording setup, but I did get a few seconds of song recorded with my camera. That recording is attached.
Habitat: In a grove of cottonwood trees (and others?) adjacent to a reservoir. Surrounding area is largely agricultural. The bird seemed to stay in mid-canopy while I observed it, changing perch many times but never approaching the tops of the trees nor coming down to eye
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Identification was primarily based on vocalizations, but the bird's appearance also supported Least Flycatcher. Primary projection was medium-short, clearly not long enough for Hammond's Flycatcher or Western Wood-Pewee and in the range, proportionally, of Dusky Flycatcher (for comparison). Bird was small with a rather large and round head for an Empid, with no obvious or even subtle crest. Eye ring was complete and subtly thicker behind the eye, lending a hint of "almond shape" but not as much so as is typical for Hammond's or Dusky Flycatchers. Bill was short and medium-broad. The lower mandible was significantly darker than typical for Least Flycatcher, appearing more than half dark and perhaps completely dark. I'm not sure what would cause this, but it is atypical for the species from what I've read, and might cause me to doubt the identification had the bird not been singing emphatically for five minutes.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have extensive experience with the expected Empidonax flycatchers of northern Utah, especially Dusky Flycatcher and Hammond's Flycatcher but also Cordilleran Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, and Gray Flycatcher, and other drab flycatchers including Olive-sided Flycatcher and Western Wood-Pewee. According to my eBird records, this is my ninth observation of Least Flycatcher, including observations in the typical range Wisconsin, Illinois, Idaho, and Montana, plus once in Utah (see record 2013-53).
References consulted: None.
Description from: Photos and memory
Observer: Ryan O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: This bird was initially found by Cullen Clark on the previous day, 5 June 2014.
Date prepared: 7 Jun 2014
Additional material: Four photographs and one 12-second audio recording.

(Submitted 23 Jun 2014 - Additional Material)

Additional_Comments: Note: eBird checklist for this observation: