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Great Crested Flycatchers!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

And that pewee-lookin' bird with yellow below that Phoebe found for me? Get this: Pewees have wingbars and crested heads. She had it almost zeroed in. But she had found a pair of great-crested flycatchers, and they were tending a nest!

And not just any nest, but a glorious weathered branch stub in a sycamore. And it was low, and the birds were tame, as you will see. What a find!

 The pair was busy feeding young which might have been fairly well along, to judge from the prey items they were getting. I could hear them in the cavity, voicing "wheep!" calls just like their parents'. This is something unique about flycatchers. Even as little chicks, their voices don't vary much from how their parents sound. Flycatcher calls and songs are innate, not learned. So you could take a phoebe, a pewee or a great-crested flycatcher, just to name a few, raise them in complete isolation, and they'd still have a perfect song and call from the get-go. That's not true of most songbirds.  You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time I held a newly-hatched phoebe in my palm, and it said, "Chip!" just like an adult phoebe.

So this pair of great-crests is hauling in dragonflies as fast as they can. Not the first time I've wished I'd spent more time on odonates. It pains the Science Chimp greatly not to be able to identify the great crested's prey items. Please chip in if you can.

 The birds were bombproof, eyeing me but slowing down not one whit as I fired away from just below the nest.

Input, output...they carried away sizable fecal sacs of processed dragonfly with each visit.

 The original disposable diaper: the fecal sac.

 Fecal sacs are neatly encased in a mucoid coating which, if handled gently, leaves no residue on bill (or fingers, she notes).
 The bird carries them away for hygienic purposes, and to keep predators from keying in on the nest location. Birds love to drop them over water.

More great-crested family photos anon.


I am not really a serious birdwatcher, but I am enjoying watching a family of flickers who were just chased away from my suet feeder by a pileated woodpecker. And there's a family of tiny little nuthatches too.

Which reminds me. I always wanted to ask: when you showed me a bluebird fecal sac on the ledge at the top of your tower, how did you know whose poop it was? And why was it there? Personally, I'd probably have dropped it just about as soon as I could. I was wondering if it was a salute or a token of affection.

That dragonfly in the flycatcher's beak may be a common whitetail female. I have a picture of it with the same wing pattern and learned it while figuring out what my picture was. But one needs to use the area, habitat, posture when sitting, as well as the colors on the various body segments, to make some of the ID's. I'm just beginning to figure out the local dragonflies and will be learning more since our bird species and numbers are down and we don't have many butterflies due to the drought.

What a great trip that was! The pics of the Flickers and Red-headed woodpeckers were cool, and these of the Great Crested Flycatcher are just amazing!

Hey Julie - in addition to the Common Whitetail, the other species that have very similar wing patterns are the Twelve-spotted Skimmer (female or immature), and the Prince Baskettail. But yeah, I think one would need a look at the body to distinguish which of the three it was, wings alone might not be sufficient...

Oh, how I love Great Crested Flycatchers! That's one seriously wonderful find -- and I shrieked over the original disposable diaper line. (And as for Murr's quextion, I'm betting the fecal sac on the tower ledge was a tip of the old poop hat.)

Great that you were able to capture all of that. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,pa

Whoa, whaaaaa? I cavity nesting flycatcher? Guess I need to read up on my tyrant-familied friends! How very cool, and good for Phoebe for taking notice (as if I'm surprised)! My greatest nesting finds this year include various E. Kingbird nests, one of which included fledged young being fed tirelessly by ma and pa. =sigh= Birds bring me such bliss. -HotH

My first-ever Great Crested Flycatcher encounter was with a family that was nesting in a big old sycamore, too! I distinctly remember puzzling over that quirky call and following my ears until I came upon their tree, situated on the sandy beach of a river bend. They seem to have big personalities, as evident in your photos!

Down here in the Ozarks, we have scissor tailed flycatchers.
lovely creatures of long tails, rosy breast feathers and black and white markings. We have lots of bluebirds too, and when these both are together in a pasture, {and they usually are} they are great fun to watch.

More love. Love, love love. Love this story and these photos!

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