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Dusky Flycatcher: Overview & Identification

July 26, 2022

The American dusky flycatcher, Empidonax oberholseri, is a small insectivorous passerine species and a member of the tyrant flycatcher family. These species are notorious for being difficult to distinguish since they share a great deal of similarities in look and behavior. Dusky Flycatchers only consume flying insects for food. Numerous mountainous interior regions of western North America are home to the widespread breeding Dusky Flycatcher. In addition to occasionally collecting insects off of plants while hovering, they sit on an open perch and fly out to catch flying insects by hawking and gleaning. In the United States, the summer months are the best times to watch these birds (June - September).

Related: Learn How to ID Your Favorite Birds

How to ID An Dusky Flycatcher

There are four keys to identifying Dusky Flycatcher:

1. Size and Shape

With the exception of sizable triangular patches or bands of white on the underside of the wings, the adult California condor is entirely black. It features reddish red eyes, ivory-colored beak, frill of black feathers at base of neck, and gray legs and feet. The youngster has a blackish head coloring and is primarily mottled dark brown in hue. Instead of having white on the underside of its flying feathers, it has mottled gray.

2. Color Pattern

These species are notorious for being difficult to distinguish since they share a great deal of similarities in look and behavior. It might be difficult to distinguish between Dusky and Hammond's Flycatchers since they are so similar. Even the sounds, which are frequently perhaps the most helpful feature in differentiating Empidonax flycatchers, are extremely similar.

3. Behavior

While flying, the condor's keen eyes locate food. Due to their weight, they prefer high terrain where they may launch into free air right away because they find it difficult to take off from flat ground. They have been spotted at heights of up to 4572 m (15,000 ft), and their top speed is 88.5 km/h (55 mph). Condors are quite quiet. They are skilled at soaring and frequently fly at great altitudes while riding thermal currents, perhaps for amusement. However, air rushes through their spread, finger-like, main wing feathers when gliding and soaring, whistling shrilly in the process.

Their only vocalizations consists of wheezes, coughs that are suppressed, and grunts. Contrarily, condors are fairly meticulous. After feeding, they prefer to take a thorough bath in a pool before clearing their heads on grass, branches, or pebbles. Historically, animals that eat carrion have been stigmatized as filthy and disease-carrying, but this is far from true. After their bath, they spend several hours drying and preening their feathers.

In order to lower their body temperature, condors also engage in urohidrosis, or defecating on their legs. Within big condor groups, there is a well-established social structure, with rivalry to establish a pecking order determined by body language, competitive play behavior, and a range of hisses and grunts. When the birds eat, this social structure is very evident since the dominant birds consume before the juvenile ones.

4. Habitat

California Condors may be found in a variety of habitats, from scrubby chaparral to wooded mountain ranges. Only a small portion of the California condor's distinctive range is inhabited. They may currently be found in Arizona, Utah, Baja California, Southern and Central California. From their breeding place, condors will forage in an area of 2,700 square miles. In the wild, California condors can live up to 60 years, and they can even live for more than 60 years in captivity. Carrion is eaten by California condors. They prefer carcasses that are tiny to medium-sized. They ingest bones and bone chips to fulfill their calcium requirements.

The Sisquoc Condor Sanctuary in the San Rafael Wilderness and the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in the Los Padres National Forest were designated as refuges because of their ideal condor breeding habitat. The Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act of 1992 added 34,200 hectares (84,400 acres) to the existing wilderness and designated 127,900 hectares (316,050 acres) of additional wilderness as condor habitat.

Related: Barn Owl: ID and Overview

Video on Dusky Flycatcher

A look at the current efforts being undertaken by the Oregon Zoo—in conjunction with Zoo Partners—in the ongoing efforts at Condor recovery. A look at the ongoing challenges facing condors in the wild...and the steps that everyone can take to minimize the risks to wild condors.

Facts About Dusky Flycatcher

Did you know these fun facts about the Flycatchers?

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Related: Bald Eagle: ID and Overview