Birds – Olive-sided Flycatcher

(Contopus borealis)

Length—7 to 7.5 inches. About an inch longer than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Dusky olive or grayish brown above; head darkest. Wings and tail blackish brown, the former sometimes, but not always, margined and tipped with dusky white. Throat yellowish white ; other under parts slightly lighter shade than above. Olive-gray on sides. A tuft of yellowish-white, downy feathers on flanks. Bristles at base of bill.

Range-From Labrador to Panama. Winters in the tropics. Nests usually north of United States, but it also breeds in the Catskills.

Migrations—May. September. Resident only in northern part of its range.

Only in the migrations may people south of Massachusetts hope to see this flycatcher, which can be distinguished from the rest of its kin by the darker under parts, and by the fluffy, yellowish-white tufts of feathers on its flanks. Its habits have the family characteristics: It takes its food on the wing, suddenly sallying forth from its perch, darting about midair to seize its prey, then as suddenly returning to its identical point of vantage, usually in some distended, dead limb in the tree-top; it is pugnacious, bold, and tyrannical; mopish and inert when not on the hunt, but wonderfully alert and swift when in pursuit of insect or feathered foe. The short necks of the flycatchers make their heads appear large for their bodies, a peculiarity slightly emphasized in this member of the family.

High up in some evergreen tree, well out on a branch, over which the shapeless mass of twigs and moss that serves as a nest is saddled, four or five buff-speckled eggs are laid, and by some special dispensation rarely fall out of their insecure cradle. A sharp, loud whistle, wheu—o-wheu-o-wheu-o, rings out from the throat of this olive-sided tyrant, warning all intruders off the premises ; but however harshly he may treat the rest of the feathered world, he has only gentle devotion to offer his brooding mate.