Great Crested Flycatcher

Myiarchus crinitus


Early Spring Date: April 19
Late Spring Date: June 1
Most Frequently Seen May 1-11
Has Nested in Park

Great Crested Flycatchers are common spring migrants in the Washington metro area. They breed locally, and they have nested at Monticello Park and the surrounding neighborhood. They usually begin to arrive at the end of April, and you have a good chance to encounter one through much of May.

Where to See Them in the Park

Great Crested Flycatchers are much easier to hear than to see, because they spend much of their time in the canopy. When you hear one calling, you need to look high in the trees and hope you can find one perched or see one chasing an insect.

Physical Description


Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher - Photo by William Higgins

Great Crested Flycatchers are the largest and easiest to identify of the flycatchers who visit Monticello. They have a yellow belly, a rufous tail, and a gray throat and chin.

Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher - Photo by William Higgins

The back is olive brown. The wings are mostly dark with white edges. Some of the wing feathers are rufous like the tail. The crest is responsible for the bird's name. The sexes are similar.

Vocalizations

Great Crested Flycatchers can be very vocal, which is one of the only ways you know they are in the park. They have a number of calls, but two of them are the most common. One sounds like a long wheeeeeep. The other sounds like someone blowing a whistle.

Hear the vocalizations of the Great Crested Flycatcher.

Notes

The Great Crested Flycatcher is the only species in the genus Myiarchus regularly found in the Washington Area. Western North America has a number of Myiarchus flycatchers who look alike, and Central and South America have a lot more. Knowing the vocalizations can be important when trying to identify them. Only after seeing a lot of them and getting a good feel for their size, shape, and characteristics can you begin to feel confident in telling them apart.

Origin of Names

Common Names: Great from their relatively large size. Crested from their crest. Flycatcher because they catch flies.
Genus Name: Myiarchus means "a fly ruler".
Species Name: Crinitus means "hairy", from the crest.

Great Crested Flycatcher video footage

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