A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


Ash-throated Flycatcher is a mostly summer resident in Sonoma County, moving into our area from the south (Mexico, South America) to breed, usually arriving here in early April and leaving again by the end of August, although sporadic sightings of migrating birds on either side of that range are not uncommon. Favors dry, brushy areas and dry, wooded, edge habitats. Feeds mostly on insects but also eats berries and will occasionally take lizards or even small mammals (mice, voles). Forages mostly in mid-level to low vegetation and occasionally on the ground. Gleans insects as it moves through foliage. Nests mostly in the drier, eastern half of the county, according to Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas (1995), and that is supported by the pattern of confirmed breeding activity recorded in the Atlas. Uses abandoned nests excavated by others or manmade cavities.

In our area, the only flycatcher normally present with rufous in the tail. Similar species in the same genus--Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer) and Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus)--do not ordinarily occur here. A fairly large, slightly crested flycatcher. Overall, brownish grey, but very pale to whitish at the throat, pale grey upper breast and very pale yellow on the belly and at the vent (in the field, birds may simply look pale underneath). Darker grey head. Crown a little darker than the rest of the head. Bill all black. Two distinct pale wing bars (although disheveled feathers can hide the fact). Rufous in the primaries shows both at rest and in flight (photo below). Rufous also in the tail with dark tip visible from underneath in adult birds (although, very confusingly, some birds apparently lack this feature). Young birds show more rufous in the tail but lack the dark tip. Very vocal. Often heard before it’s seen. The field guides give quite a list of utterances including brik and prrt as call notes, kibr and kabrick as repeated song elements. Peterson (2010) gives “a rolling chi-queer or prit-wheer.” Song often described as “fussy” or “burry.”  A simple prrrt seems to be most common.    

Further reading:

Bolander and Parmeter, Birds of Sonoma County California, rev. ed., 2000, p. 83

Brinkley, National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2007, p. 317

Burridge, ed., Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas, 1995, p. 103

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th ed., 2006, p. 304

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 6th ed., 2011, p. 338

Dunne, Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion, 2006, pp. 409-410

Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye, The Birder's Handbook, paperback edition, 1988, p. 372

Fix and Bezener, Birds of Northern California, 2000, p. 250

Floyd, Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 2008, p. 293

Kaufman, Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2000, p. 242

Kaufman, Field Guide to Advanced Birding, 2011, p. 344

Lukas, Bay Area Birds: From Sonoma County to Monterey Bay, 2012, pp. 181-182

Parmeter and Wight, Birds of Sonoma County California, Update (2000-2010), 2012, p. 49

Peterson, Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 5th ed., 2002, p. 222

Peterson, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 4th ed., 2010, p. 250

Peterson, Western Birds, 3rd ed., 1990,  p. 234

Sibley, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America,1st ed., 2003, p. 288

Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 1st ed., 2010, p. 472

Vuilleumier, American Museum of Natural History, Birds of North America: Western Region, 2011, p. 260

Voice: Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds--Ash-throated Flycatcher



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.


Ash-throated Flycatcher, Spring Lake, Santa Rosa, July 11, 2014

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Myiarchus cinerascens

1990-2014 Sonoma County data. Graph provided by eBird (www.ebird.org), generated July 11, 2014

EBird reported occurrence in Sonoma County

Ash-throated Flycatcher, Spring Lake, Santa Rosa, July 11, 2014