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The Sneeze of the Willow Flycatcher

What was that?

Willow Flycatchers arrive later than most other migrants, usually at the end of May. They're coming from South America, a long way to fly for a bird that weighs less than half an ounce. A male Willow Flycatcher aggressively defends its territory against other males and soon attracts a mate. Their compact nest is usually low in a willow or rose or low shrub. To find a Willow Flycatcher, listen for its sneeze - "Fitzbew!"

Full Transcript



Willow Flycatcher
The Last Sneeze of Summer

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Willow Flycatcher song “fitz-bew” and stream]
We’re walking along a stream, and we hear what sounds like a sneeze in a dense thicket. [Willow Flycatcher]  Should we reach for our binoculars -- or maybe a handkerchief? [Willow Flycatcher song “fitz-bew”]
This sneezy song belongs to a Willow Flycatcher.  A small, gray-green bird singing from atop a nearby shrub. [Willow Flycatcher “fitz-bew”]
Willow Flycatchers nest across the northern two-thirds of the U.S. and southernmost Canada. A subspecies, known as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, nests in the Southwest, as far east as Texas. [Southwestern Willow Flycatcher]
In June, territorial males sang almost nonstop [“fitz-bew”] and with a little less gusto in July.  Before long, their sneezy songs will fall silent. By late August, with their young fledged and out on their own, Willow Flycatchers begin a long migration, to winter in southern Central America. Some will travel 4,000 miles to reach southern Panama — quite a trek for a bird weighing less than half an ounce.
The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher was listed as endangered in 1995. [Southwestern Willow Flycatcher]  It’s just one of 300 bird species that can benefit each time Congress votes to continue funding the Endangered Species Act.  Learn more at


Song of the Willow Flycatcher provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by 120435 Aug by G.A. Keller.  Song of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher recorded 8118 by R.C. Stein.
Ambient WIFL recorded by C. Peterson WWA June 06 G9T3 and Robinson Creek.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to      August 2018/2019     Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# SotB-WIFL-01-2011-08-03            

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