WEEK-BY-WEEK BIRDS TO SEEK: WEEK 23 FLYCATCHERS

EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.

This week, it is Flycatchers

There are two regular breeding flycatchers in the UK and one regular scarce passage migrant. All do what it says on the tin and catch flies for a living. As such, they are by necessity summer visitors. In fact, Spotted Flycatchers, which take the highest proportion of their food in mid-air sallies, are among our latest arriving summer visitors. They are also in a steep decline owing to the general depletion of flying insects in the country.

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

The Spotted Flycatcher is a large (by flycatcher standards), longish billed, upright, grey-brown flycatcher. It is not really spotted, more lightly streaked, although juveniles and firstw-inter birds have pale spots n their heads and back. Long winged and quite long tailed, the Spotted Flycatcher is a wonderful elegant bird, catching flying insects in swooping sallies, before returning usually to the same perch. They often perch on exposed bare branches or along fence lines, on passage.

Pied Flycatcher

Typical autumn Pied Flycatcher

Typical autumn Pied Flycatcher

Summer male Pied Flycatcher

Summer male Pied Flycatcher

A small black-and-white (spring/summer males) or brown-and-white (the rest) flycatcher, which can be surprisingly elusive. In autumn, even the males are brown and white in fresh plumage. The white in the wing is usually obvious (Spotted Flycatchers can also show some white in the wing). Although they fly out to catch flying insects, Pied Flycatchers do more gleaning and ground feeding than Spotted Flycatchers. Can perch on exposed perches and fence lines, but may also ‘disappear’ inside a tree.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

First-winter Red-breasted Flycatcher

First-winter Red-breasted Flycatcher

A scarce passage bird, the Red-breasted Flycatcher is similarly sized and shaped to the Pied Flycatcher. Most birds we see in the UK are first-winters in September and October, lacking the orange breast of the adult male. Buff washed and brown and white, the black and white tail is the most striking feature. Can be a very elusive bird, sitting still within vegetation for extended periods.

All photos from Alamy