Alder Flycatcher

Empidonax alnorum


Kristie Nelson
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eBird Checklist S48850311
Lake Los Carneros Park
Santa Barbara, California, United States
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Latitude and Longitude 34.4432, -119.8498 Map



Observation details

This was a medium/large, rather lanky Empidonax – similar in size and structure to the Willow flycatcher that was at times on the same reed as this bird. Unlike the Willow, this bird had exceptionally crisp, sharp, well-contrasting white tertial edges and wing-bars. The other thing that stood in very stark contrast to the Willow flycatcher was this birds very long primary projection. Because it had thin white tips on the primaries, I could clearly see that the number of primaries projecting past the tertials was substantially longer than the Willow flycatcher, which made the Willow look very stubby winged compared to the Alder. When I counted what looked like 6 primary tips extending on the Alder and about 4-5 on the Willow, I ran for the camera. The eye-ring was slightly better defined than on the Willow. Also the bill looked a little smaller. Calls: The bird called several times over the course of the few hours I was there. Unfortunately no one as far as I know actually observed it calling nor obtained a recording, which is a bummer, but considering how difficult it was to see and stay on this bird visually in the thick vegetation, it isn’t too surprising. However, a few times I and others heard the distinctive pip calls which were distinctively Empidonax in quality coming from the bushes where this bird had been seen. The times I heard it calling: • There was a Pacific-slope flycatcher present. At one point right as I got visual on the Pac-slope, it dive-bombed a second Empidonax which I barely saw, as my focus had been on the Pac-slope. The second Empid dropped off and down to my left, behind some vegetation, and called several times – Empid quality pip notes, which I would consider a bit lower and less sharp than a Hammond’s. It didn’t sound particularly agitated, although it was following an interaction. A few other of the observers also heard this. I was thrilled and relived to finally hear promising or downright confirming vocalizations. • Some time later, Joan Lentz played ALFL calls a couple times on her phone. The first time we had no response, but the second time there was. After the second time we listened quietly and at first heard nothing. For a few moments I thought there was no response, but then from the bushes near us, again the distinctive pip calls were heard. I was thrilled as I heard clearly Empid quality pip calls coming from where the bird had been. It called in two short bouts during this time. Again I would describe the calls as slightly lower and a bit less sharp than a Hammond’s. Hearing these calls a second time confirmed the identification as Alder in my mind. I may have heard it call another time when I first arrived on the site. As I was first approaching the lakeshore before I encountered the two Empidonax, I had heard a single pip note. As I got out to the shore, there were two Long-billed dowitchers there. I just assumed the pip came from one of them, but something about it – that it was just a single note – had seemed odd. But I had forgotten about that until - the moment that Joan first played the ALFL call. That was the sound I had heard! But, it is entirely possible I heard the LBDO, and I hardly consider this worth mentioning. But in retrospect, it is likely I heard the bird call and passed it off as a LB dowtcher. I would describe the calls we heard in the bushes as very similar to a Long-billed dowitcher.

Technical Information

Lens model
EF300mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x III
Focal length
420 mm
Shutter speed
1/500 sec
Flash did not fire, auto
Original file size
1500 x 999

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