Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 201

Common name:

Least Flycatcher

Scientific name: Empidonax minimus
Date: June 16, 2012
Time: 11:00
Length of time observed: 1 hour in two visits
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: 21st Street Pond, Ogden
County: Weber
Latilong: 3
Elevation: 4278 ft
Distance to bird: 15-35 feet when I could see it; often singing out of sight and farther away
Optical equipment: 8 x 42 binos
Weather: 80's
Light Conditions: Deep shade
Description:        Size of bird: Very small passerine
(Description:)       Basic Shape: songbird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Lightish underparts, darkish upperparts
(Description:)            Bill Type: aerial insect gleaning, neither blunt nor wide
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Small bird with a proportionately large, rounded head in all observations, and somewhat long narrow tail, although not as long in proportion as a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher's. Short primary projection, thin tail, slightly notched.

Sang from looping branch in profile once; head thrown back abruptly with each note, back rounded and wingtips projecting slightly beyond back, tail pointed almost vertically toward ground.

Upperparts: Darkish color with rare glints of dull greenish when bird was caught in a beam of light that snuck through thick cottonwood canopy. Head and back about the same color. Clearly had a pale eyering, although the shade obscured the shape of it. No spectacles. Wings darker than head and back with two obvious pale wingbars, even in the deep shade. Tertials also edged in whitish. No opportunity to assess other color tints due to deep shade.

Underparts: Pale, although not white--perhaps whitish. Throat, breast, belly all the same base color, which contrasted with the darkish upperparts. No obvious bright yellow.

Beak: Small to medium with lower mandible entirely yellow. The bird came in over my head at about 15 feet briefly and I was able to look up from underneath, which revealed the lower mandible color.

Didn't see leg color.
Song or call & method of delivery: During the morning audience, bird called "Che-bec. Che-bec. Che-bec." almost constantly, with repetitions about a second apart. Audible in deep woods, probably 50-100 feet away. These are cliche terms, but apropos: snappy, emphatic, decisive, mechanical. No musicality to it at all.

During afternoon visit, bird paused in che-bec'ing occasionally, often due to changing positions, and slipped in a couple slightly warbled, short churr notes.

Bird perched on small dead cottonwood branches just under the canopy of a mature, live cottonwood and sang; perhaps at 35 feet of elevation. Threw its head back abruptly with each che-bec as if it were snatching the call out of the air above its head.
Behavior: Singing consistently from deep cottonwood gallery forest. Responded to a playback of three repetitions of Stokes' Least Flycatcher song by silently approaching my position, although I didn't know it at the time. I perceived the bird was in my immediate area when I saw movement and then realized he or she had come in. Landed briefly 15 feet over my head before finding a perch a short distance out of sight and beginning to sing again.
Habitat: Mature cottonwood gallery forest with a variety of shrubs and trees in the thick understory including willow, box elder, and poison ivy. Nearby pond, a couple sloughs and a river within 100 feet of the bird's location.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Bird was only identifiable by field marks, silhouette and behavior as an Empid; che-bec song eliminated all species. Check recordings.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Two previous Least Flycatchers, Mantua 2010 and presently in Ogden, June 13-16. Most other North American Empids except Pacific-slope, Acadian, Yellow-bellied and Alder.
References consulted:  
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Kristin Purdy
Observer's address: Ogden, Utah
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: June 16, 2012
Additional material: Two Mp-3 recordings with Sony Digital Voice Recorder
Additional_Comments: Other species singing in recordings include very musical Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, Brown-headed Cowbirds, American Robins and House Finches, and a brief but unmusical Mallard.