Looking Back – A Great-crested Flycatcher Pair

A little after noon today, a pair of Great-crested Flycatchers flew into the white oak branches hanging low over our back deck. As often with songbirds, they looked much smaller close-up than they do from a distance. A Great-crested Flycatcher is large compared to other flycatchers, and through binoculars it has a bold, flashy appearance and behavior – a proud, erect posture, with a large dark-gray crested head, a rather sturdy, pointed bill, brownish back and long wings, pale wing-bars, lemon-yellow belly, and long, cinnamon-tinted tail.

It hunts from perches, flying off to catch insects in the air, or sometimes on the ground, often flaring its cinnamon tail and calling in a loud, imperious, rolling Breeeet.

Watching these two from only a few feet away, though, I was impressed by how very small they really are, they looked slender and light – but also how much more personality shows up, especially in the dark-gray face with its dark, watchful eye and the remarkably fluid movements of the head.

One perched in a branch, the other on top of a crook over a hanging fern – then it flew to the top of an umbrella over the table, where it sat for four or five minutes, just looking around. Several times, it turned its head around – it seemed to turn a full 180 degrees, looking backwards. Maybe it wasn’t quite so far, but it looked like it, and yet it looked easy, a languid, graceful move.

Both flycatchers flitted from spot to spot around the deck for several minutes, checking out some chairs, ferns and other potted plants. Then one flew to the top of the umbrella again, leaned low, stretching out, and fluttered its wings – but the other didn’t seem interested at the moment. Then they both flew away, though not far. All afternoon I could hear their animated calls in the trees around the yard.

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