Gray Flycatcher nest

birding_nut

Here are some pictures of a Gray Flycatcher nest I found. The nest is about 2-3 feet off the ground in the central crotch of a ponderosa pine sapling.

First is the female incubating.

This is 2 of the four eggs in the nest (one later disappaeared)

This is the 3 nestlings at 14 days old and ready to fledge at day 16.

BN

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Comments (10)
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catherinet

Oh wow! Great pics! Are those feathers or fur that lined the nest? Thanks for sharing!

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Those are very well camouflaged birds in that nest! 2-3 feet off the ground sounds awfully dangerous as far as predators are concerned. Luckily the birders aren't a threat, even ones that take lovely pictures.

Claire

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birding_nut

I suppose I should have stated that I am a wildlife biologist who is studying the reproductive success of this species in managed ponderosa pine forests...and not just a birder. LOL. That was my purpose for finding the nest and monitoring its progress. Despite its close distance to the ground, this nest will probably be the first nest to fledge young this year compared to nests that are in trees ranging up to 11 m (33 ft roughly) high. So far, 69% of the nests I have found and monitored have failed. All have failed due to nest predation, except one that failed due to weather. It is a tough life for such a small passerine with an open cup nest, trying to raise a brood. Luckily, they readily renest after a nest failure. This is the first year of a three year study, so hopefully nest success will be higher in the next 2 years. I also measure habitat variables associated with each nest site, when nesting is completed, in order to determine if any of these variables influence nest survival. This will allow us to better manage for the species if populations begin to decline as has happened with so many other Neotropical migrants. So far, the population of this species in the U.S. appears stable. However, there is much we don't know in regards to habitat features this species uses to select nest sites and how those features influence nest success.

They line the nest mostly with fur from deer and elk, usually the soft under fur that insulates these large mammals. Occasionally, they do add a few feathers. The outside is mostly dead grass and is held together with spider webs that I have observed females collecting.

BN

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

69% nest failure is daunting, BN. Do you know what the usual predators are? Is there an advantage for a flycatcher to nest close to the ground; for example, more flying insects at that level?

Gluing nests together with spider webs is a neat trick.

Claire

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birding_nut

Claire, they have a host of nest predators to contend with including Steller's Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, Common Ravens, yellow pine chipmunk, golden mantled ground squirrel, Douglas squirrel, gopher snake, etc. This species seems very flexible in its placement of nests. I have had two other nests in this same type of situation, sapling close to the ground, and both failed. I have also seen nests very well concealed, for example sitting on a clump of mistletoe and an overhang of ponderosa pine needles, and they also fail. Sometimes it seems like nest placement is a bit of a crap shoot (but this is what I hope to tease out with the analysis of vegetation features). These guys are also pretty defensive of their nests. I have seem them chase chipmunks down the trunk of the tree they are nesting in. Thus, I think that many of the predation events are by corvids (jays, ravens)...all of which are much bigger than these little flycatchers.

Here is another pic of a nest located on a branch and semi hidden by pine needles. This nest also failed.

BN

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

BN: Since the predators are mostly either flyers or climbers, the distance of the nest from the ground doesn't look to be very important.

You said these are "managed ponderosa pine forests". Is there a difference in size of the trees, e.g. old-growth versus new, smaller trees that would influence the availability of safer nest sites? I'm thinking of old trees with lots of crevices and branch overlap that would provide a good place to hide a cup nest.

Another thought would be an increase in the corvid population for whatever reason in a managed forest - more hungry ravens, etc.

Claire

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birding_nut

All my study areas are managed for timber production, so no old-growth component unless there are remnants left from previous harvests. This species occurs throughout the Great Basin, often nesting in Pinyon/Juniper woodlands, shrub-steppe with healthy sagebrush, and ponderosa pine forest (generally a bird of shrubby, dry, open habitats). Gray Flycatchers only became common in pine habitat in my county about 40 years ago from what I understand (hence another reason for this study to see how they are doing in this habitat). It is thought that management for quicker rotations of harvest, resulting in open forests of younger ponderosa pine trees has increased the habitat for this flycatcher. Thus, this species is not tied to old-growth characteristics. Often, there are much larger trees "available" than what the flycatchers are actually nesting in. Of course, that will all be teased out when I analyze the vegetation features when the study is complete. From what I have seen this year, in general, they avoid nesting in the largest diameter pine trees with full canopies, while seeming to nest more frequently in the smaller diameter trees. With two more years of data after this, we can hopefully tease out all this stuff on how vegetation and nest site location influence nest survival.

BN

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John Dorman

Hi Birding Nut. This is an old post, but maybe you are still out there. We have a Gray Flycatcher who just built a next under our porch! We are in Orange County, CA against the foothills. I don't know if this would be of interest to you, but if you have any interest I could send more details. I don't think there are any eggs yet, just the tall nest awkwardly positioned on a narrow ledge.

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whwo

If it is a Gray Flycatcher, that would be highly unusual as this species does not breed in coastal California and only barely in eastern California. It is most likely a Pacific-slope Flycatcher. They breed in your area and are well-known for nesting on man-made structures.

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HU-434899509

The East Cascades Audubon Society in Bend, Oregon is
searching for photos of bird nests, eggs, and young that we can use on a webpage
dedicated to identifying our local birds.
We saw your photos of Gray Flycatchers on this site wondered if you would consider granting us permission to use some of those photos (ideally,
we are seeking 5 nest photos) for our new website? We are struggling to find public domain
photos of Gray Flycatcher nests so we are reaching out to nest surveyors
working in the field. You will be
credited for any photo we use (please let us know the name or moniker you want
on your picture).

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