Tail dipping Gray Flycatcher – Point Loma

[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2013] – I heard the “whit” sound as soon as I stepped out of my vehicle at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery this morning. Sure enough one of my favorite flycatchers, a Gray Flycatcher Empidonax wrightii, was actively calling from low perches such as the grave markers and a temporary plastic fence. It slowly moved about the cemetery grounds swooping down and resting on the lawn for a few seconds each time it caught an insect. Apart from the physical characteristics, rounded head, large strong bicolored bill, and voice, a soft but quite loud “whit” call, the behavior of this bird immediately reveals its identity. Unique among the Empidonax species it repeatedly dips its tail in the downward direction only. Since the vast majority of birds that move their tails flick them upwards this behavior is easily noticed, and even appears a bit odd! The tail dipping is quite slow too, almost pendulum like. Like other individuals I have encountered in the past, this bird allowed close approach. I would say it is almost tame compared to its high energy congeners! The close looks allowed some nice opportunities for photographs.

Gray Flycatcher – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego 19 Apr 2013

Gray Flycatcher – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego 19 Apr 2013

Gray Flycatcher – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego 19 Apr 2013

Gray Flycatcher – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego 19 Apr 2013

Gray Flycatcher – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego 19 Apr 2013

Gray Flycatcher – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego 19 Apr 2013

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