Gray Flycatcher on the nest

I found this Gray Flycatcher on the nest a few weeks ago in Red Canyon Park in south central Colorado only about 12 miles from where I live. Red Canyon Park, which is publicly owned, has excellent pinyon-juniper habitat so it hosts breeding Gray Flycatchers as well as other birds associated with this type of habitat. Below is the juniper tree in which the nest was located (right in the center of the photo).

Gray Flycatcher is a small, drab, empidonax (‘empid’) flycatcher species that is found in the Southwest and interior West portions of the United States. This is a rather nondescript bird, grayish on upperparts and whitish below, with an inconspicuous eye ring.  It does have whitish wingbars and a distinctive habitat of  frequently ‘wagging’ or ‘bobbing’ it’s tail in a downward direction.


I am always very careful when photographing nesting birds as I don’t want to risk nest abandonment from disruption or inadvertently leaving clues that predators can follow. I took all the photos from inside my car with a 1200mm zoom equivalent (or 50 times the normal view) to minimize disturbance. And since I did not walk close to nest there was no danger of a scent trail that predators could follow. This female bird seemed to settle onto her nest comfortably.

Photographing birds with minimal disturbance, especially nesting birds, is not only ethically important but it also provides for better photographs. A disturbed bird may move around and try to hide behind vegetation making it difficult to get a clear photo. And a disturbed bird is more likely to flush, leaving you with either a rear view as it departs or none at all.

Whenever possible I take my photos of birds and other wildlife from inside my car. Here is an article that gives some hints on how to use your vehicle as a bird blind. By the way, I have tried window-mounts and don’t like them plus I don’t use a bean bag–I just rest my camera on the mostly closed car window, not ideal but it has worked well for me.

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