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Flycatchers my photos, my words

Tyrant flycatcher is the largest family of birds on the planet, with more than 400 species throughout North and South America.

An Eastern Kingbird perches on berries in Slate Run Metro Park, Canal Winchester, Ohio.

And it's a family that causes some of my biggest headaches when it comes to identifying birds. Except for the Eastern Kingbird, which is larger and more distinctive than many other types of tyrant flycatchers in this region of the country, other family members look very similar.

An Eastern Phoebe perches on a branch in Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge near Hilton Head Island, S.C.

I have photos of several of the species found in Central Ohio - Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Wood-Peewees and Willow Flycatchers, Alder Flycatchers and some other flycatchers. Except for the kingbird, I'm not confident that the identifications are correct — even though I often seek assistance from experts.

An Eastern Wood Peewee perches on a limb in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

When I get a new photo of a tyrant flycatcher I typically post it to BirdForum.net and have the experts there assist me with the identification. Unfortunately, the posts often spark a debate — especially if the photo is of a bird in the flycatcher species. Many of these are so similar that the only way to identify a specific type of flycatcher is by its voice, but I don’t capture the voice in a still photo. So is it a Willow Flycatcher, an Alder Flycatcher or one of its other cousins? Don’t know. I usually just call it a Willow Flycatcher until someone proves me wrong.

A Willow Flycatcher hangs onto a stem in Slate Run Metro Park, Canal Winchester, Ohio.

So the photos in this gallery all show tyrant flycatchers. I guarantee that. But I won't guarantee anything beyond that.

The name “flycatcher” is well earned. A typical flycatcher — whether it is a kingbird, a phoebe, a peewee or one of the many others that carry a flycatcher name — will dart from its perch to catch insects in flight.

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Created By
Pat Hemlepp
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All photos and text © Copyright - Pat D. Hemlepp. All rights reserved.