Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Hammond’s Flycatcher Empidonax hammondii


Hammond’s Flycatcher is a common but poorly known migratory species of the genus Empidonax that breeds in mature coniferous and mixed forests of western North America. Flycatchers of the genus Empidonax (literally translated as “mosquito king”) are so similar in size and appearance that a birder can identify them with certainty only by their calls, habitat and range.
The name was given to this bird in 1858 by John Xantus for his friend Dr.Wm.A. Hammond a surgeon in the US Army.
This flycatcher summers from Alaska, BC, south east Alberta, south to California, Arizona and New Mexico. It winters in Mexico and parts of central Central America.


General: This is a small and compact Empid with a fairly large head, and long primary projection: bill is very small and dark. 13cm length. 10g weight.

Adult Male: Sexes are alike. White eye ring usually expanded in a “teardrop” at rear. Grayish head and throat; grayish-olive back; gray or olive wash on breast and sides; belly tinged with pale yellow and white wing bars. Slight crest to head.

Juvenile: Brownish washed upperparts and buffy wing bars; edging to secondaries and tertials with buffy wash.

Similar Species: Dusky Flycatcher is small but not as compact as Hammond’s. Dusky is longer tailed, shorter-winged, longer billed; rounded head.

Behavior: Hammond’s Flycatcher is primarily an aerial forager, capturing most of its insect diet on the wing. It tends to forage high in trees and repeatedly flicks its tail and wings while doing so. Though feeding mostly on flying insects it may also hover near tips of foliage, from underneath leaves and branches and at tree trunks. Occasionally it may drop from low perches to ground or to base of trees to forage.

Habitat: Summers mostly in mature coniferous forests at high altitude. Firs, spruces, pines or mixed forests near timberline. It lives at higher elevations than other small flyctchers.


Similar in song and appearance to the Dusky Flycatcher of chaparral hillsides this species avoids competition for nest sites and food by living higher on the mountains in open coniferous forests.
Because this species frequently nests high in conifers, saddling its nest on a horizontal limb well away from the main trunk, its nests are difficult to locate and regular checks of the nests contents are arduous. The nest is a tight cup of bark strips, grasses and plant down lined with moss, hair and feathers 25-40ft high.
3-4 white eggs occasionally spotted. Both members of the pair feed nestlings and fledglings, but only the female incubates the eggs and broods the young.

Habitat Conservation Status:

Logging may adversely affect this species, which prefers mature and old-growth coniferous forests, generally stands of more than 10 hectares and a minimum age of 80-90 years. BBS data show and increasing but nonsignificant trend for both them US and the continent during the period 1966-1991.
Capture Rates

The Hammond’s Flycatcher preferred breeding habitat is higher elevation, dense conifer or mixed deciduous-conifer forests and therefore is a migrant visitor to Colony Farm. Subsequently, capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) are highest in April and May, with smaller numbers captured in September as the bird returns to its wintering habitat in Central America.


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