Beak of the Week – Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)

Family: Tyrannidae

By Jon Piasecki, Houston Audubon Conservation Technician

Olive-sided Flycatchers are one of the many species of flycatchers that can be found in the western hemisphere. This species winters in the northern half of South America and parts of Central America. During migration, these birds can be seen primarily throughout Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States. Olive-sided Flycatchers breed throughout much of Canada, Alaska, and the western and northeastern parts of the United States.

Olive-sided Flycatchers can look very similar to other flycatcher and pee-wee species depending on how one views it. Their characteristic field marks are the dark gray side patches on the breast contrasting with a white patch in the center of the chest. It almost looks like a flycatcher wearing a vest! They have a dark gray back with hints of olive green and long wings compared to the rest of their body. Sometimes the back of the head may have raised feathers so the crown may form a peak like a Northern Cardinal.

This species, like other flycatchers, will perch in high trees on open branches and fly out to catch prey. They go after flying insects that they can catch in midair and bring them back to the perch to eat. It’s always fun to watch any type of flycatcher hunt their prey while swooping back and forth in a continuous motion, nabbing insects out of the air.

During the breeding season, females take charge and choose the nest site. Usually, nests are built toward the edges of tree limbs and can range considerably in height off the ground. Typically, a female will lay between 3-4 eggs that take just over 2 weeks to hatch. After an additional 2 weeks, the chicks will be able to fly and leave the nest. It is estimated that Olive-sided Flycatchers have declined by around 79% since 1970 due to losses and degradation of habitat in their wintering regions.

There have been recent sightings of Olive-sided Flycatchers along the Texas coast with some in Houston Audubon sanctuaries! Be sure to keep an eye out for these fancy looking flycatchers next time you find yourself in the woods!

 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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