Posted by: atowhee | February 21, 2012


UPDATE:The Ashland flycatcher mystery has now gotten statewide attention and expert opinion seems to be weighted in favor of a Hammond’s not Pac-slope.  For those of us not seeped in Empidonax details, this is a good lesson in verrrry careful assessment. Here’s a summary based on the photos.  It is an email from local birdman, Frank Lospalluto:

“not wanting to repeat what the more experienced here have mentioned, i want to offer these observations.

why is this bird a likely Hammond’s and not a Pac-slope as some conjecture:

bill shape favors Hammond’s, more acute ‘spiky’: a PSFL would tend to be rounder, curving to the tip

bill color is dark but does show orange flavors  HAFL can show  orange on lower mandible but the tip is dark

lower mandible on PSFL is yellow or flesh colored usually all the way

eyering complete, somewhat almond shaped,both HAFL and PSFL exhibit this character

what about the leg color? can we tell ? Hammond’s have blackish legs. Pac-slopes grayish.

crested look,well both species can look like they have it

color of the bird’s upperparts  Hammond’s  generally appear grayish with olive , the head  can show more olive in the fall

Pac-slope generally appear greenish olive .

Hammond’s usually appear short tailed

Pac-slopes appear long tailed

color on the underparts: Hammonds usually has a grayish white throat with olive to bright yellow on the underparts

Pac-slope has yellowish throat with yellow brownish underparts.

i’ll stop here before i get into real trouble…..pretty cool either way!”

Here are five pics from Ashland of a bird (birds?), and some images sure look like the bird I watched awhile Ashland Creek, could not photograph but called a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  At least one OBOL doubter suggested it might be a Hutton’s Vireo because of the early date.  Click here and you decide.  It is possible there are at least two diffrent birds in this sequence as the second photo appears to be a bird with no crest and most likely is a Hutton’s.

I would say the beak shape, the slight crest and the wing projection indicate Pac-slope Empidonax.  And the bird I watched was flycatching not a typical vireo behavior as far as I know it.

If this bird(s) is simply a Hutton’s Vireo, that’s pretty standard for this time of year but a migratory Empid  Pac-slope wintering in Ashland is an unusual vagrant or a harbinger of global warming on a major scale of change. I have heard a Hutton’s calling in Lithia Park off and on all February.   They are not long distance migrsators like the small flycatchers.


  1. There is no Hutton’s Vireo in these photos, all are probably the same bird, which is an Empidonax flycatcher. The species is uncertain, but likely either a Western or a Hammond’s Flycatcher. The bill does not look like a Western Flycatcher. The first photo shows a bird with a normal tail. In the next the bird is tail-less. The other photos show a tail that is developing but it is not yet to its full length.

  2. feb 19 with profile of head is a great photo. who shot with what camera/lens?

    • Thanks, I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150, with built-in zoom.

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