Vermillion Flycatchers are Easily Identified

By Dave Hanks

Unlike many Flycatchers, there is no mistaking the Vermilion. It is such a bright bundle of color that you can’t forget it. The male is a brilliant red on his undersides and head. This is contrasted with a blackish/brown stripe though his eye and a dark back and wings. The female trades the red for white, with a pinkish wash along her sides. She, also, is very attractive.

They are insectivores that spot their prey from a perch. The male will spend 90% of his time in this mode. He then will occasionally fly out to nab a meal and then return to the same spot. This hunting behavior is repeated with the bird gradually flying a circuit – eventually coming back to the starting point. I have observed this tendency, and as a result, I have sat by one of the perches and the bird will eventually return to where I sit.

Male courtship display involves fluttering and singing about 11 to 33 feet above the vegetative canopy. Mating is initiated by the male feeding the female a bright insect, like a butterfly. She lays 2 to 4 creamy eggs that have dark splotches on them. The young are altricial (helpless at birth).

This 5 to 6 inch species can be found in southwestern USA scrublands, deserts, riparian woodlands, or irrigated farmlands. Big Bend National Park, in southwestern Texas, is a long ways from Burley, Idaho. But, it has one of the largest populations of this bird in our country. When we have journeyed that far south, we have always kept an eye out for this brilliant fellow.

I have chased this bird until I have become more knowledgeable about its behavior. The adage: “To sit and sit is more productive than to pursue” is certainly the case with the Vermilion Flycatcher.

(Using our truck cab as a blind – A Vermilion returns to his perch)