BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER  Myiarchus tyrannulusMyiarchus tyrannulus

Brown-crested Flycatcher, formerly known as Weid’s Crested Flycatcher, is a widespread taxa, breeding from the southwestern United States to South America. Seven subspecies are currently recognized including M. t. cooperi in Texas and the Caribbean slope south to Honduras and the larger M. t. magister of  Arizona south to Oaxaca, Mexico. The ranges of these two subspecies barely touch and more study of their life histories and taxonomy is needed (Cardiff and Dittmann 2000).

DISTRIBUTION. TBBA project data from 1987-1992 show most Brown-crested Flycatchers breed in Texas in the South Texas Brush Country and Coastal Sand Prairie regions (as defined by  Lockwood and Freeman 2004). The TBBA map is similar to those of Oberholser (1974) and Lockwood and Freeman (2004).

North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data  from 37 routes on which the species was detected in Texas indicate Brown-crested Flycatcher is most common in the state south of the 29th parallel. In that area most 40 km (25 mi) routes found 3-10 flycatchers per year. Northward relative abundance dropped rapidly to <,1 bird per route. (Sauer et al. 2005).

Brown-crested Flycatcher also breeds south along the east coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, then south to northwest Costa Rica. The west Mexican population breeds from southeast California, southern Arizona and western New Mexico south to the Oaxaca-Chiapas border. Northern populations migrate south in the fall. Another group is resident in South America (Cardiff and Dittmann 2000).

SEASONAL OCCURRENCE.  Brown- crested Flycatchers are present in Texas from about March 3 until September 14. The breeding season extends from late March to late July based on egg dates extending from April 3 to July 7 (Oberholser 1974).

BREEDING HABITAT. Brown-crested Flycatchers breed in Texas from sea level to about 300 m (1000 ft) in large mesquite, hackberry and ash trees in riparian situations.

This species prefers subtropical vegetation, while Great Crested Flycatcher (M. crinitus (most similar ecologically to Brown-crested) prefers  eastern trees: baldcypress, live oaks and pecans. Ash-throated Flycatcher (M. cinerascens) is a western bird, preferring small mesquites and cacti for nesting (Oberholser 1974).

The species breeds in natural cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes which are filled with animal hair and feathers. The egg cup is lined with finer materials and the female usually lays 3-5 slightly glossy, creamy buff eggs, indistinguishable from those of Ash0throated Flycatcher and similar to the eggs of Great Crested Flycatcher (Harrison 1979). The length of the incubation and nestling periods are unknown. No reports of brood parasitism of Brown-crested Flycatcher exist for North and Central America (Cardiff and Dittmann 2000).

STATUS.  Lockwood and Freeman (2004) report Brown Crested Flycatcher to be common summer residents of the lower Rio Grande valley, becoming less common further north.

BBS data from Texas produce a statistically significant +4.2% population trend per year for the period 1966-2004, similar to the corresponding trend for Arizona of +4.5% (Sauer et al. 2005). This encouraging trend suggests that birdwatchers in Texas will be able to see or hear Brown-crested Flycatchers in summer in south Texas for years to come.

South Texas, especially Jim Hogg and Brooks counties, has the highest density of Brown-crested Flycatchers in the United States. Two BBS routes there had relative abundances of 52.9 and 40.4 birds per route (Price et al. 1995).

Text by Robert C. Tweit (2006)

Texas Breeding Bird Atlas map

Literature cited.

Cardiff, S. W. and D. L. Dittmann. 2000. Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus). In The birds of North America, No. 496 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Harrison, H. H. 1979. A field guide to western birds’ nests. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.

Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.

Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Price, J., S. Droege, and A. Price. 1995. The summer atlas of North American birds. Academic Press, New York.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2005. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2004. Version 2005.1. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel MD (Web site,

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