Vermilion Flycatcher

Pyrocephalus rubinus
Range Map

The Vermilion Flycatcher (often misspelled Vermillion) is a strikingly handsome bird. We find it in the New World in open brushy areas near water. In the Southwestern USA, they are resident near the border with Mexico, but sometimes push north a few hundred miles to breed in summer. Southern Nevada is another location where we find them year-round. Science currently recognizes nine subspecies of Vermilion Flycatchers, some of whose ranges extend south as far as Argentina.

Taxonomists recognise at least eleven subspecies of Vermilion Flycatcher:

  • P. r. flammeus breeds in southeastern California, southern Nevada, west Texas, and south into northwestern Mexico from Baja California to Nayarit. Northern populations spend winter south of the breeding range as far as Central America.
  • P. r. mexicanus lives in south Texas and south into to central and southern Mexico.
  • P. r. blatteus lives from southeastern Mexico to northern Central America.
  • P. r. pinicola lives in Honduras and Nicaragua.
  • P. r. rubinus breeds from southern Bolivia and northern Argentina east to southern Brazil. They spend winters across Brazil to Colombia.
  • P. r. piurae lives in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
  • P. r. ardens lives in northern Peru.
  • P. r. obscurus lives in western Peru.
  • P. r. cocachocrae lives in southern Peru and northern Chile.
  • P. r. saturatus lives in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and northern Brazil.
  • P. r. major lives in southeastern Peru.

I can remember well my first meetings with Vermilion Flycatchers. I was relatively new to birding in 2003 and exploring southern Arizona’s Arivaca Ciénega when I saw both male and female birds hawking insects from reedy stalks in the middle of the marshes there. It’s impossible to ignore these birds, or not be impressed, especially the rich, bold coloration of the males that give these birds their name. I didn’t photograph those first birds, but the image is burned into my memory to this day. I returned the following morning and captured some of the images on display in this gallery.

I spent a Friday late in January (2021) exploring Estero Llano Grande State Park, a jewel of birding in south Texas. I couldn’t visit this place last spring because of the pandemic. I found it a wonderful place to meet birds. During my visit, a male Vermilion Flycatcher put on a show for me, hawking insects from his high perch. Because of his repeated sorties from a favored perch, I anticipated his movements and captured a series of airborne shots.

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