10.20.19: Flycatcher on stem

A Willow Flycatcher perches on a plant stem
in Slate Run Metro Park, Canal Winchester, Ohio.


Technical information

May 14, 2009, 
8:59 a.m.

39°45'31.18" N 82°52'7.799" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/1250th second


I have thousands of photographs of birds in my files. This photo of a Willow Flycatcher fits into a small subset of those photos — birds photographed against an uncluttered background.

I was hiking through Slate Run Metro Park south of Columbus, Ohio, on a spring morning when I saw this flycatcher land on a plant stem that extended above a field. The bird was close to me, probably less than 20 feet away, and a good distance from any background objects. I knew that would drop the background to a defocused blur, isolating the flycatcher against color to create and interesting photo.

Flycatchers are fun to watch as they jump and hover to catch insects. But the similarity of the different types of flycatchers make them difficult to identify correctly.

Sometimes the varieties are so similar that the only way to differentiate them is by their call. That’s definitely the case for the Willow Flycatcher and Alder Flycatcher. They were considered to be the same species until the 1970s.

This is a Willow Flycatcher (that’s my guess and I’m sticking to it). I found this bird in a wetlands on a spring morning. It would perch on a plant, then suddenly pop into the air, hover, grab a flying insect, then return to the plant.

The Willow Flycatcher's migration path is similar to the warbler's. The Flycatcher winters in Mexico and Central America (and sometimes in South America), then returns to the United States and Canada for the summer. They eat insects, typically perching near the top of a shrub before quickly flying to catch an insect or hovering to pick a bug from leaves.

The flycatcher family in North America includes a variety of very similar looking birds: Phoebes, Kingbirds, Peewees, Kiskadees and more than a dozen types of birds carrying the Flycatcher name. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.