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Least Flycatcher

Empidonax minimus


One of the smallest members of the flycatcher family, adults of this species are 5-6 inches long, have a wingspan of about 8 inches, and weigh 8-13 grams. Its coloring is a dull olive above and whitish below, with two pale white wing bars, bold eye rings, and blackish feet and legs. Males and females are almost identical in color, while juveniles have slightly browner upperparts and slightly yellower underparts.

least flycatcher

Distribution and Habitat

The least flycatcher breeds across Canada and the northern United States, and winters in Mexico and Central America as far south as central Panama; some individual groups have also been known to winter in southern Florida. It is found in deciduous forests, groves and orchards during the breeding season, and in wooded ravines, woodland edges, secondary forests, pastures, brushlands and/or thickets in the winter.


Breeding season runs from May through August. Males establish and aggressively defend small territories. Whether there is a courtship ritual whereby females choose potential mates is unknown. The nest, built entirely by the female, is a neat cup made from a variety of plant materials, caterpillar and spider webs, feathers, and even insect parts; it is almost always located in a tree fork, from 2 to 60 feet above ground. The average clutch consists of 3-6 yellowish- or creamy-white eggs, which are incubated by the female alone for about two weeks. The chicks are fed by both parents and are able to leave the nest after about two weeks.


The least flycatcher's diet consists primarily of insects and spiders, supplemented by fruits and seeds in the winter. The bird is able to catch insects as they fly by its perch, and can also pluck a crawling insect from foliage while it is itself on the wing.

Other Information

Almost identical to other species of flycatchers in size, shape and coloration, the least flycatcher is most easily identified by its characteristic chebec song. Other calls include a short, soft whit; an aggressive weep-weep; and a quiet churr and thrr when nesting. The male also performs flight songs.

Another characteristic feature of this species is that it migrates to its wintering grounds prior to molting, while almost every other migratory bird molts after arriving at its wintering grounds.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passeriformes
family Tyrannidae
genus & species Empidonax minimus

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Passeriformes

This page was last updated on March 22, 2018.