Pacific-slope Flycatcher

June 21st, 2020: Summer in QE Park

…isn’t particularly birdy. That is, it’s quieted down significantly now that most birds have nested at least once. There’s still activity of course, and still plenty of young birds zipping about.

A female Gadwall and two ducklings at the SE pond at QE Park
A young Spotted Towhee
A young Spotted Towhee

So there weren’t a lot of highlights either. Just the usual suspects, totalling 24 species (eBird list). In fact, with the exception of a single Cedar Waxwing and a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, every species I saw today is a resident species that you might run into any time of year.

A Brown Creeper hiding under the coniferous canopy at QE
A Brown Creeper hiding under the coniferous canopy at QE
A Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) tending to the nest at QE
A Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) tending to its nest at QE

Pacific-slope Flycatchers always make my day though. There’s something about their cheerful tseeoowhip call. Like they’re saying, “Yoo-hoo! Come and find me!” Not an easy task in their favoured dense PNW conifers. But at QE Park it’s a little easier to track them down.

This Pacific-slope Flycatcher was sheltering under the cherry canopy at QE Park a few weeks ago.
This Pacific-slope Flycatcher was sheltering under the cherry canopy at QE Park a few weeks ago.

This species is aptly named in two ways. First, they do indeed stick to the pacific coast, and particularly in the northwest where they nest. And second, their Latin name, difficilis, makes sense because these are one of the tougher species to tell from others. In Vancouver, we don’t have to worry about differentiating between them and the extremely similar Cordilleran Flycatcher (you only have to worry about this in the interior). Cordilleran and Pacific-slope Flycatchers were considered the same species (Western Flycatcher) right up until 1989.

Lots of greenery at the SE pond at QE
Lots of greenery at the SE pond at QE

But, if Pac-slopes are new to you, you’ll want to have a good look in your field guide for the other empidonax flycatchers in the area. You’ll want to at least compare them with Hammond’s, Dusky, and Least Flycatchers. I wrote a little about these ID challenges here. Some quick, conspicuous (for an empid), and reliable field marks to ID Pac-slopes are its strong, teardrop-shaped eye ring and its overall olive-green colouring. In poor light, they might be quite difficult to separate from Hammond’s Flycatcher though, so watch for the Pac-slope’s shorter primary projection. Better yet: listen to it!

Pacific-slope Flycatcher call (from xeno-canto)
Pacific-slope Flycatcher song (from xeno-canto)

Walking the whole park on a really warm summer day in June was its own reward though. And a particularly strident Yellow-rumped Warbler song threw me off briefly. I recorded its audio since it wasn’t the usual song I hear in the area.

Yellow-rumped Warbler singing
QE Park's rose garden is going strong!
QE Park’s rose garden is going strong!

P. S. Common Nighthawks are back! They’ve been back for a couple of weeks now (returning toward the end of the first week of June usually). But I heard my first as it flew over my house just after sundown. I managed to get some audio…

Common Nighthawk calling

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Norman L Bleier

    Always enjoy reading your posts. Back in my birding days in South Texas (Rio Grande delta) we had the scissor tailed flycatcher that was abundant but still always a thrill to see.

    1. Jim Palmer

      Thanks, Norman! And yeah, I don’t think I could ever tire of those. I’ve only ever seen one once, in Arkansas. What a thrill though!

  2. Jim Davie

    Hi Jim, Hope you are doing well! What a great spring at QE, thanks for the many tips! Nice read.

    1. Jim Palmer

      Thanks so much, Jim! I am indeed doing well. I even did some distance bird guiding today. It was such a fantastic spring at QE. All the better for running into you so often!

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