Birds – Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

(Empidonax flaviventris) Flycatcher family

Length—5 to 5.6 inches. About an inch smaller than the English sparrow.

Male—Rather dark, but true olive-green above. Throat and breast yellowish olive, shading into pale yellow underneath, including wing linings and under tail coverts. Wings have yellowish bars. Whitish ring around eye. Upper part of bill black, under part whitish or flesh-colored.

Female—Smaller, with brighter yellow under parts and more decidedly yellow wing-bars.

Range—North America, from Labrador to Panama, and westward from the Atlantic to the plains. Winters in Central America.

Migrations—May. September. Summer resident. More commonly a migrant only.

This is the most yellow of the small flycatchers and the only Eastern species with a yellow instead of a white throat. Without hearing its call-note, “pse-ek pse-eh,” which it abruptly sneezes rather than utters, it is quite impossible, as it darts among the trees, to tell it from the Acadian flycatcher, with which even Audubon confounded it. Both these little birds choose the same sort of retreats—well-timbered woods near a stream that attracts myriads of insects to its spongy shores—and both are rather shy and solitary. The yellow-bellied species has a far more northerly range, however, than its Southern relative or even the small green-crested flycatcher. It is rare in the Middle States, not common even in New England, except in the migrations, but from the Canada border northward its soft, plaintive whistle, which is its love-song, may be heard in every forest where it nests. All the flycatchers seem to make a noise with so much struggle, such convulsive jerkings of head and tail, and flutterings of the wings that, considering the scanty success of their musical attempts, it is surprising they try to lift their voices at all when the effort almost literally lifts them off their feet.

While this little flycatcher is no less erratic than its Acadian cousin, its nest is never slovenly. One couple had their home in a wild-grape bower in Pennsylvania ; a Virginia creeper in New Jersey supported another cradle that was fully twenty feet above the ground ; but in Labrador, where the bird has its chosen breeding grounds, the bulky nest is said to be invariably placed either in the moss by the brookside or in some old stump, should the locality be too swampy.