Gray Flycatcher

Empidonax wrightii
Range Map

The Gray Flycatcher is found in brushy, arid habitats. This bird breeds in the Great Basin and in semi-arid woodlands and shrublands of the western inter-mountain region, and spends winters in much of Mexico.

My experience with this species to date is limited to a single meeting in the Imperial Valley, near Brawley (California). I hope it won’t be my last encounter.

Modern taxonomists regard the Gray Flycatcher as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

I presented a brief discussion in the Dusky Flycatcher account about some issues surrounding past identification confusion between Hammond’s Flycatchers, Dusky Flycatchers, and Gray Flycatchers. In further researching the present species, I found some information about ornithologist Allan Robert Phillips (1914 – 1996), who was a prolific author and researcher. He co-edited the book The Birds of Arizona in 1964. His research in 1939 and 1944 helped separate the Dusky Flycatcher from the Gray Flycatcher. Even though the Gray Flycatcher was recognised as a distinct species in 1889, collectors continued to misidentify specimens in museum collections, until Phillips shed light on features such as the slow downward pumping action of this bird’s tail.

2 Photos

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