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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Lord of the Flies"

Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) photographed on Bodega Head on 5 November 2012.

Although a common summer resident in eastern Sonoma County, most Ash-throated Flycatchers leave the United States by the end of August and winter from Mexico to Honduras.  They are only casual visitors to the Sonoma County coast in the fall and winter, including seven records: 2 in September, 2 in December, and 1 each in October, November, and February.

Above, note the medium size, medium-length bill, and short crest.  For a size comparison, the photo below shows the Ash-throated Flycatcher on the far right and Say's Phoebe on far left.

The throat is white or light gray and the belly and vent are pale yellow.

On the wings, note the two gray wing bars, and rusty edges on the primary feathers.

One of the most important characteristics is the pattern on the tail feathers.  Note that the tail is extensively rufous, true of juvenile birds.  And the central tail feathers (recently molted) have broad, dark brown tips extending across the entire feather.

The genus, Myiarchus, translates into "ruler of flies," which I've casually interpreted as "Lord of the Flies."  You may be able to get the sense that these birds perch at the tips of vegetation, actively scan, and make short flights to pursue their insect prey.

P.S.  This is the first Ash-throated Flycatcher I've seen on Bodega Head.  Because there are several other species that look similar, to confirm the identification I asked for and received help from local birders, for which I am very grateful!

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