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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Wheeep! I'm back!"

A loud "Wheeep!" greeted me as I stepped out onto my back porch Sunday morning. It made me smile for I instantly recognized the call of an old friend from my childhood, the Great Crested Flycatcher. He had returned from his winter down south.

(Image courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology.)
The Great Crested Flycatcher is another of those birds, like the Yellow-breasted Chat, that is often easier to hear than to see, but, indeed, there is no problem with hearing him. He has a distinctive and ringing call, unlike any other bird that I've heard, including any of the other flycatchers. If you do get lucky enough to see one, you will see a medium sized bird,  similar in size to a Western Kingbird and slightly bigger than an Eastern Kingbird. The Great Crested is one of the more colorful flycatchers of the eastern part of the continent, with a gray head, olive back, rufous wings and tail and bright yellow belly.  It is a hole-nester, normally nesting in a hole in a tree but it will sometimes use human-made nest boxes or other structures. I once found a nest in an old mailbox.

An interesting thing about this bird's nests is that they often will use a shedded snakeskin in the construction of the nest. Why? Is is a way of scaring off predators? Or maybe the bird just likes the look of snakeskin. Only the Great Crested Flycatcher knows for sure.

This flycatcher does nest in our area and some years I have them in my neighborhood throughout the summer as they raise their 4-6 young. I've never had one nest in my yard, to my knowledge. Maybe this will be the year!

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