Great Crested Flycatcher

It was a picture-perfect Spring morning. Cool, sunny and bright, with intensely green leaves and intensely blue sky. The leaves on our tall White Oaks are still very small and pale green tinged with salmon, not fully open, and the Red Maples also seem slow to leaf out, even though they started early. But almost all the other trees are green and full, and the woods look greener every day, dusted with the lingering white spray of dogwoods here and there. Tulip Poplars are in bloom with big orange and cream blossoms.

Lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers, a White-throated Sparrow, and a Black and White Warbler, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo and Louisiana Waterthrush all were singing, along with the spee! of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the mew of Goldfinches, the chatter of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the spring-time churrr of a Red-bellied Woodpecker – the most musical sound a woodpecker makes, I think. One female Ruby-throated Hummingbird made regular visits to the feeder.

Two Red-shouldered Hawks soared in the clear, cloudless sky, and called kee-yer! back and forth. I watched them for a while – just watching them and listening to their cries was enough to lift the spirit – and heard them calling off and on all morning.

A fairly good-sized bird flew into the branches of a pine tree and perched there – and when I looked through binoculars, I saw sunlight glowing on the sleek, lemon-yellow belly of a Great Crested Flycatcher. It sat, tall and handsome, partially screened in green needles, flying off several times to catch an insect, and returning to the same perch. Although it’s fairly common in the woods here in the summer, there’s nothing ordinary-looking about a Great Crested Flycatcher. With its ash-gray throat and darker gray head rising into a crest, the long, heavy bill and long cinnamon-colored tail, it looks regal and moves with a flashy, dramatic flair. Although it’s often overlooked, maybe because it hunts from leafy perches, a Great Crested Flycatcher is very vocal, and its calls are showy – though rather hoarse and deep. I’ve been hearing its rolling whreep and burrrrt-burrrrt-burrrrt for several days now, but this was the first time I’d seen one this season.

Leave a Reply