Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

Bird on a branch
Flycatchers wait on a perch until they see an insect to hunt and then grab their prey from the air.

(C) Rick Fridell


The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher is one of the critically endangered species that call the Grand Canyon home. Once common throughout the Southwest United States, only 900-1000 breeding pairs remain in the wild.

Scientific Name

Empidonax traillii extimus



  • They have gray-green back and wings, with two light colored bars on each wing. The throat is white, the breast is light grey, and the belly is a pale yellow.
  • The upper mandible of the beak is dark, and the lower is orange or yellow.
  • They have a harsh call that sounds like "fitz-bew" or "rrritz-bew."


  • A migratory bird, the southwest willow flycatcher spends the winter in Mexico and Central America, and spends the spring and summer breeding in the Southwest United States.
  • In the Grand Canyon, this species is dependent on the riparian habitat surrounding the Colorado River, and will only breed in dense willow and cottonwood thickets.
  • Most Southwestern willow flycatcher breeding areas are small and have fewer than 5 breeding pairs. This makes the network of riparian zones inside Grand Canyon National Park critical breeding habitat for these rare birds.
  • The primary causes of the decline in southwest willow flycatchers are destruction of riparian vegetation, livestock overgrazing, and water diversions (which reduce overall riparian habitat).
  • As part of a recovery plan, habitat surveys are conducted in the Grand Canyon. The most recent survey identified 16 high-priority nesting sites.


  • As their name suggestions, these birds are insectivores that feed on flies and other small insects.
  • Southwestern willow flycatchers hunt by perching on a branch, then launching after an insect and capturing it by either gleaning (taking an insect from a tree branch) or hawking (taking a flying insect). Once they have captured an insect, the flycatcher will usually return to its original perch.
  • They build a nest out of woven plant fibers, grasses, and shredded bark in the fork between tree branches. They build their nest in late May or early June, and usually lay 2-5 eggs at a time. The chicks fledge by mid-July.

Additional Information

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher
Prepared by Sonya Daw, Southern Colorado Plateau Network I&M Program, 2013.

Last updated: July 8, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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