Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2015-17

Common name:

Least Flycatcher

Scientific name: Empidonax minimus
Date: 19 May 2015
Time: 5:00 PM
Length of time observed: ~10 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex:  Male
Location: Newton Reservoir
County: Cache
Distance to bird: Down to ~10 feet
Optical equipment: Nikon Monarch 10x42 binoculars and Nikon DSLR with 80-400mm lens.
Weather: Partly cloudy, dry but between rain storms.
Light Conditions: Diffuse overhead light.
Description:        Size of bird: Smallish Empidonax flycatcher
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Empidonax flycatcher.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Details below
(Description:)            Bill Type: Relatively short and broad-based for the genus.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Smallish Empidonax genus flycatcher with medium-short, broad-based bill dusky at the tip and diffusely blending to a pale base. Two bold wing bars. Bold barring on the edges of the tertials. Medium primary projection. Distinct eye ring roughly even around the eye. Identification primarily made by song, described below.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Distinctive short two-syllable "che-BIK" song repeated many times without variation. No call notes heard. I recorded several seconds of song twice with my camera. The attached audio recording includes parts of two bouts of song, separated by a couple minutes in life but merged together in one audio recording here.
Behavior: Singing and flycatching in the lower parts of the canopy (above my head height) of a cottonwood and willow grove.
Habitat: Open grove including largely cottonwood and willow near a reservoir.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Identification was primarily based on vocalizations, which are distinctive and diagnostic on their own, 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, perhaps not quite as proportionally large-headed as Hammond's Flycatcher but comparable. 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 broad-based. Least Flycatchers average more contrasty tertial edges, and this bird's tertials appeared very contrasty.
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. I have observed Least Flycatchers on about 10 or 12 previous occasions, including on trips to the eastern US states and on a few occasions in Utah (records 2013-53, 2014-018a).
References consulted:  
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr., Logan, UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None.
Date prepared: 25 May 2015
Additional material: Photos   Audio recording.
Additional_Comments: This is probably a returning individual from last year (see record 2014-018).
eBird checklist:

Just an update on the Newton Least Flycatchers: I returned on May 30th (with Andy Kleinhesselink) and there were two singing males, and on June 4th (with Stephanie Cobbold) there were three. I could hear all three singing at once while I stood in one spot. Here is a video I recorded of one of the three on June 4th:

And here is a longer, better audio recording of the same individual:

I didn't record the second and third individuals because they were moving around more and singing less frequently and less persistently. We were also mostly focussed on trying to document nesting, as I suspect they are or will be breeding in the area, given that there were at least three males present last year and this year.
<end of update>