A medium-sized (8-9 inches) flycatcher, the Great Crested Flycatcher is most easily identified by its olive head and back, brownish tail, and bright yellow belly. Other field marks include a gray breast and throat, faint white wing bars, and a thick black bill. Male and female Great Crested Flycatchers are similar to one another at all seasons. The Great Crested Flycatcher breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada west to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. In winter, this species migrates south primarily to southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Small numbers spend the winter in southern Florida. Great Crested Flycatchers breed in a variety of open woodland habitat types. In winter, this species may be found in clearings and edges of humid tropical forests. Great Crested Flycatchers primarily eat insects, but may also eat fruits and berries at any time of the year. Great Crested Flycatchers may be observed flying out from perches to catch insects in the air or “hovering” near vegetation while picking insects off leaves and twigs. In the breeding season, males sing a loud “wheeeep!” song, although this is generally performed from perches hidden in the canopy. Great Crested Flycatchers are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species often migrates at night.
- Lanyon, Wesley E. 1997. Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/300
- Peterson, Roger Tory. Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
- eBird Range Map - Great Crested Flycatcher. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012. http://ebird.org/ebird/map/grcfly.
- Myiarchus crinitus. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. http://xeno-canto.org/browse.php?query=Myiarchus+crinitus.
- Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/great-crested-flycatcher-myiarchus-crinitus.
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: east-central Alberta, central Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia, south to southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and southern Florida, west to eastern Dakotas, eastern Nebraska, western Kansas, and central Oklahoma (AOU 1983). NON-BREEDING: central and southern Florida and Cuba, and from southern Mexico (Veracruz, Oaxaca, Yucatan Peninsula) to northern South America (Colombia, eastern Ecuador [few records], and western Venezuela [casual]) (AOU 1983, Hilty and Brown 1986). MIGRATION: Occurs regularly through eastern New Mexico and eastern Mexico (west at least to Nuevo Leon and Guanajuato), casually west to Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado (AOU 1983).
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2012. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.7. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
Commonly known as great crested flycatchers, Myiarchus crinitus inhabits the Nearctic and Neotropical regions of North, Central and South America. This migratory flycatcher breeds across the eastern half of the United States and the southern edge of Canada. During the non-breeding season, Myiarchus crinitus may be found in southern Central America and northeast South America. Some Myiarchus crinitus may inhabit the southern tip of Florida and Cuba year-round.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )
Myiarchus crinitus is a large flycatcher with similar, yet brighter colors than others of the genus. It measures 22.2 cm in length, with a wingspan of 33.0 cm, and weighs in at 34 g. The dark gray head is large, rounded, and slightly domed or crested at the top. This species features a heavy, thick bill that is mostly black with an extensive, pale base. The gray coloration on the head is darkest on the top, then lightens and extends through the throat and breast, where it contrasts with the bright yellow belly and underside. The back is dark olive that blends into dark flight feathers edged in white. Secondary feathers are a bright rufous, as are the tail feathers. Legs and feet are dark brown to black. This species does not display any sexual dimorphism.
Juveniles are difficult to distinguish from adults but are overall duller in coloration. Slight differentiation may be discernible in a bird in the hand, where cinnamon-tinged upper tail coverts, broader rufous edges of primaries, and cinnamon terminal edges of wing coverts may be visible.
Average mass: 34 g.
Average length: 22.2 cm.
Average wingspan: 33.0 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
- Sibley, D. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..
- Lanyon, W. 1997. "Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)" (On-line). The Birds of North America Online. Accessed June 08, 2011 at http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/300.
Length: 22 cm
Weight: 34 grams
Similar to western kingbird (TYRANNUS VERTICALIS), but kingbird has a longer, black tail, less conspicuous crest, and lacks the white wingbars (Terres 1980, Bent 1942).
Comments: BREEDING: deciduous (mainly), mixed, or pine woodland or somewhat open forest (Hamel et al. 1982, Hamel 1992), parks, orchards, wooded residential areas, areas of scattered trees in cultivated regions, clearings and edges of wooded areas, and swamps. Frequents upper levels of trees. Research on canopy selection and flight length indicates a preference for open canopies where unhampered foraging flights can occur (Via 1979). Preferred perches are tall trees, but may also be found on utility lines and short shrub-like growth in recent clearcuts (Via 1979). Nests in natural cavity or old woodpecker hole in live or dead tree, average of 3-6 m above ground; also in bird box, pipe or similar cavity. Morrison (1988) suggested a preference for nestboxes that are hung from trees as opposed to stationary boxes; the former may be less likely to be used by starlings.
NON-BREEDING: prefers habitat similar to that used in breeding season (Hamel et al. 1982, Hamel 1992). Found mostly in lowland forest, woodland (AOU 1983), and humid to semiarid forest and edge (Howell and Webb 1995). In Colombia: humid forest borders, shrubby clearings, and second growth, occasionally canopy of undisturbed forest (Hilty and Brown 1986). In migration, found generally in wooded habitats (Howell and Webb 1995).
Habitat and Ecology
Myiarchus crinitus is a forest-dwelling species that prefers deciduous or mixed-deciduous woodlands. This species is found in habitats with a semi-open canopy or forest edge. Urban areas with large canopy trees also provide habitat for this species. Myiarchus crinitus is an obligate, secondary cavity breeder and during the breeding season will seek out forests that provide snags and pre-made cavities.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Arrives in nesting areas March-May (Terres 1980). In central Florida, males arrive in late March, females 7-12 days later (Taylor and Kershner 1991). Arrives in Costa Rica late September or early October, departs by mid- to late April, occasionally early May (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Present in Colombia mid-October to early May (Hilty and Brown 1986).
Comments: Eats insects (beetles, bees, wasps, sawflies, houseflies, stable flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, katydids, moths and butterflies, true bugs, caterpillars) and spiders; also small fruits (e.g., mulberries, pokeberries, blackberries, raspberries, wild black cherries, and wild grapes (Morrison 1988, Terres 1980, Bent 1949). Flycatches high in canopy; in spring before full foliage development, also takes insects from or near ground and from crevices of bark (Bent 1942). Young are fed mainly insects. Often occurs at fruiting trees and shrubs on wintering grounds (Hilty and Brown 1986).
Myiarchus crinitus is an insectivorous species, but will occasionally eat fruits, particularly during the non-breeding season. This species primarily employs hover-gleaning methods to aerially snatch prey from the surface of foliage. It often forages from a perch within the upper canopy of green trees, notably higher than many of its insectivorous neighbors. Common prey items include butterflies and moths, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets, bees and wasps, flies, and spiders. Necropsies have shown some individuals occasionally eat green anoles. Types of fruits consumed have not been reported.
Animal Foods: reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Plant Foods: fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )
As primarily an insectivore, Myiarchus crinitus likely plays a significant role in controlling local insect populations. Eggs, young, and even adults may serve as prey for local predators such as snakes. This secondary cavity nester may compete for nesting sites with other cavity nesting species such as red-headed (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) and red-bellied woodpeckers (M. carolinus), eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis), house wrens (Troglodytes aedon), tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Exact levels of competition are unknown, but there has been an instance where a pair of Myiarchus crinitus displaced a roosting Melanerpes carolinus from a nest box.
Myiarchus crinitus is also host for a variety of insects and parasites, primarily during the nesting stage as cavities are sheltered, enclosed habitats that provide suitable habitat for parasites to thrive. Four orders of insects have been found residing in Myiarchus crinitus nests including Diptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, and Psocoptera. Two species of subcutaneous fly larvae (Neomusca porteri and Protocalliphora hirudo) have been found residing in nestlings but seem to have little effect on nestling survival. Nestling Myiarchus crinitus are also hosts to at least one species of mite (Ornithonyssus bursa), mainly in northern temperate habitats.
Most predation occurs during the nesting stage, as eggs and young are vulnerable and make easy prey for predators. The most common predators of Myiarchus crinitus are snakes, and observations have been made of indigo snakes, yellow rat snakes, and corn snakes eating eggs, young, and adults.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Comments: Many occurrences.
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Via (1979) compared habitat structure and foraging tactics of flycatchers in southwestern Virginia. His findings suggest that uniform forest types could harbor multiple species of flycatchers. Utilization of different habitat features may assist in segregation of overlapping territories. These segregating features include: vertical stratification of perches; habitat preference based on substrate diversity; and foraging tactics that exploit available resources. Longer foraging flights appear to segregate the great crested from other flycatchers. These foraging flights are associated with capture of larger prey.
May hold individual territory in winter (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
Myiarchus crinitus uses auditory and physical body postures as main forms of communication. This species is recognized by its distinctive, loud, and somewhat raspy, "wree-eep" calls. These are often given between pairs or to young as contact calls. During territorial disputes, a shortened version of this call is given in rapid, ascending succession that is described as "wit-wit-wit". Myiarchus crinitus also gives a quieter "churr" call that is mostly given between individuals of a mated pair. At dawn during the breeding season, males give different versions of their entire repertoire to establish their territory. In addition to giving rapid harsh calls during territorial disputes, individuals often hunch low over their perch, flit and fan the tail feathers, and erect the feathers on the top of the head to appear crested. If the intruder does not retreat, Myiarchus crinitus will use physical aggression until the intruder is chased out. Myiarchus crinitus is even slightly aggressive in its courtship rituals. During pair formation, males will aerially chase potential mates, often into a nesting cavity. Occasionally, mates will perform short duets that consist of the "wree-eep" call given nearly at the same time. Like most birds, Myiarchus crinitus perceives its environment through auditory, visual, tactile, and chemical stimuli.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic
Though little data exists, lifespan for Myiarchus crinitus ranges from 2 to 10 years old. Lifespan estimates for this species are difficult to assess as few individuals return to their natal area. The maximum recorded lifespan comes from an individual that was recaptured 14 years after being banded as an adult. Possible causes of mortality include predation during the nesting stage, collisions with man-made structures during migration, and exposure to pesticides.
Status: wild: >14 (high) years.
Status: wild: 2 to 10 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Males closely follow and may guard their mates during the fertile period (MacDougall-Shackleton and Robertson 1995). Taylor and Kershner (1991) reported that females build the nests. However, other reports indicate varying degrees of male assistance (Harrison 1975, Bent 1942). Nest building can take as long as two weeks. In central Florida, clutches were initiated from mid-April to early June, the latest clutches being renesting attempts by birds whose first nest was destroyed (Taylor and Kershner 1991). Clutch size is 4-8 (usually 5-6). Incubation, by female, lasts 13-15 days. Female broods hatchlings for 6 days. Young are tended by both parents (Morrison 1988), leave nest at 13-15 days (Taylor and Kershner 1991) or 12-18 days. Family group stays together for at least a few weeks after young fledge (Taylor and Kershner 1991, Terres 1980, Harrison 1975, Bent 1942). Taylor and Kershner (1991) reported one brood per season.
Myiarchus crinitus is a monogamous species and does not exhibit elaborate courtship rituals, but males often aerially pursue females and chase them into the nesting cavity. Males aggressively defend and guard their mates throughout the breeding season. Pair bonds vary in duration as some pairs return to breed together for several years and others select new mates each season. Individuals have strong site fidelity and often return to the same location to breed every year, regardless of whether or not they pair with the same mate.
Mating System: monogamous
Myiarchus crinitus is a migratory species that travels northward during the spring and summer to breed each year. They migrate from April to May and males will begin establishing territories shortly after arrival in May. After pair formation, both the male and female survey potential nesting cavities. The female completes most or all of the nest construction process once a cavity is chosen. She selects a wide variety of nesting materials including leaves, fur, feathers, string, grass, bark, snakeskin, and human trash, with which she nearly fills the cavity. Females lay between 4 and 8 (typically 5) buffy eggs, streaked with brown or purple. Females perform all incubation which lasts 13 to 15 days. The young are altricial at hatching and weigh an average 3.0 g. At 13 to 15 days of age the young fledge but remain together in a family group for up to 3 weeks post-fledging. These juveniles are able to breed during the following breeding season.
Breeding interval: Great crested flycatchers breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Great crested flycatchers breed between May and mid-July.
Range eggs per season: 4 to 8.
Average eggs per season: 5.
Range time to hatching: 13 to 15 days.
Average birth mass: 3.0 g.
Range fledging age: 13 to 15 days.
Range time to independence: 3 (high) weeks.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
Myiarchus crinitus young are altricial at birth, which requires a significant investment from both parents. Before eggs are laid, females construct a safe and secure nest while males aggressively defend the surrounding territory. After the female lays a clutch, she is the sole incubator while the male continues to defend and protect her and their nest. Both parents participate in nest sanitation once the eggs hatch, and they actively remove eggshells, fecal sacs, and food remnants a good distance away from the cavity. Both parents also provide food for the young, although females more frequently than males. Nestlings are fed a variety of insects, which are caught and presented to the young without regurgitation. After nestlings have fledged, the entire family remains together for 3 weeks, during which time both parents continue to feed and defend their fledglings.
Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
- Bent, A. 1942. Life histories of North American flycatchers, larks, swallows and their allies. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, 179: 106-123.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc..
- Johnsgard, P. 2009. "Birds of the Great Plains" (On-line). Papers of the Biological Sciences. Accessed June 08, 2011 at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=bioscibirdsgreatplains.
- Lanyon, W. 1997. "Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)" (On-line). The Birds of North America Online. Accessed June 08, 2011 at http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/300.
- Taylor, W., M. Kershner. 1991. Breeding biology of the Great Crested Flycatcher in central Florida. Journal of Field Ornithology, 62/1: 28-39.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Myiarchus crinitus
There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species. See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Myiarchus crinitus
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range in eastern North America; common in many areas; stable population in recent decades.
Other Considerations: Ranked S4 or S5 in many states. ALABAMA: A statewide breeder. ARKANSAS: Common in all regions during summer breeding. Appear to prefer bottomland hardwood forests. Summer population studies in south and northeast Arkansas, estimate 10 singing males per 100 acres of bottomland woods and 4 males per 100 acres upland woods (James and Neal 1986). CONNECTICUT: Common breeder throughout the state, with greater concentrations in northeast and southwest regions. DELAWARE: No reply for this state. FLORIDA: Stable population. ILLINOIS: Common breeding resident statewide. Population trend is estimated as stable to declining. INDIANA: Fairly common summer resident, but was formerly considered abundant. Population trends are considered stable to declining (Mumford and Keller 1984). IOWA: Found throughout the state with greater concentrations in central and eastern regions. KANSAS: Common breeder in eastern and central Kansas; becoming more rare westward where it is restricted to riparian habitats and occurs very locally. Population stable throughout the state; estimated at many 1000s of individuals. (Thompson and Ely 1992) KENTUCKY: Fairly common to common transient and summer resident. Found rarely in eastern regions. LOUISIANA: Relatively common summer resident statewide. MAINE: Uncommon predominantly in the southern portion of the state. Rare, especially, in northern or eastern Maine. Stable population distribution is indicated. However, year to year fluctuations have been noted with possible declines in the past 20 years (Palmer 1949). This possible decline may continue due to starling competition for nests. MARYLAND: Breeding Bird Atlas data contain 1100 confirmed, probable, and possible breeding records throughout the state. MASSACHUSETTS: No reply from this state. MICHIGAN: Distributed evenly throughout all three major regions of the state. Early reports (e.g., 1902, 1932, 1939) had this species recorded as common in southern Michigan, more scarce northward, and rare in the Upper Peninsula. It also as a similar increase in abundance throughout the state. Change in distribution and abundance is believed to be associated with loss of conifer forests (through cutting) and related hardwood invasion (Brewer et al. 1991). MINNESOTA: A regular migrant and summer resident throughout the state; scarce in Lake and Cook Counties (Janssen 1987). MISSISSIPPI: No specific information located. MISSOURI: Statewide breeder; population stable. NEBRASKA: A regular nester in the eastern 2/3 of the state (Ducey 1988). Breeds in fairly extensive hardwood forests, especially those with fairly open canopies. Limited to river valley at the western edge of its range (Johnsgard 1979). NEW HAMPSHIRE: Occurs regularly in all but the northern 1/4 of the state. NEW JERSEY: Found throughout state. Population considered stable. NEW YORK: Common and widely distributed breeder. Breeding confirmed in all but three counties (King, New York, and Bronx). NORTH CAROLINA: Found statewide, but absent in higher mountains. NORTH DAKOTA: A fairly common to uncommon and local in eastern and some northern locations in the state. Rare in western region. Characteristic of fairly extensive tracts of mature floodplain, swamp, and upland deciduous forest, particularly those with partially open canopies. OHIO: Common to abundant breeder. Evenly distributed throughout the state. Stable with some local declines in heavy agricultural area (western and central Ohio). OKLAHOMA: Common but showing population decline. PENNSYLVANIA: Recorded as a common breeder in much of Pennsylvania, except in higher mountains. Widely distributed in wooded regions. No appreciable change in distribution; no significant population trends (Brauning, 1992). RHODE ISLAND: Widespread throughout deciduous woodlands on mainland Rhode Island. At the turn of the century was recorded as an uncommon summer resident, during the period following the agricultural era. Absent from the outer coast of Washington County and Block Island where tracks of mature forests are lacking. Also found in woodlots of major metropolitan areas. SOUTH CAROLINA: A fairly common breeder. SOUTH DAKOTA: Uncommon to fairly common migrant and summer resident in the eastern part of the state. Less common in suitable habitat in the west and casual in the Black Hills. TENNESSEE: Common to fairly common statewide in all habitats. TEXAS: No reply from this state. VERMONT: Widespread, but does not occur in large numbers. It is near its northern range in Vermont. Indications of lower populations in cooler often conifer dominated woodlands (Laughlin and Kibbe 1985). VIRGINIA: Population estimated at many 1000s. No significant population trends. Widespread throughout the state with higher concentrations in northern regions. WEST VIRGINIA: Fairly common summer resident. Believed to nest in every county; most commonly found below 900 m elevation. Is scarce in heavy northern hardwood forests and absent from spruce forests (Hall 1983). WISCONSIN: Occurs in suitable habitat throughout the state. Common migrant and summer resident in northern and central regions; fairly common in south. Summer resident range expansion has been noted since the end of the 19th century. Breeding Bird Survey results indicate higher populations in the northeast section than in any other portion of the state (Robbins 1991). ALBERTA: Uncommon. Only 17 breeding records found during the Breeding Bird Atlas work between 1987-1991. All sightings were in east central Alberta. One probable breeding record from extreme northeast Alberta, north of Lake Athabasca. Data suggest that the appearance in Alberta is the result of gradual destruction of suitable breeding habitat farther east (Semenchuk 1992). MANITOBA: Confirmed, probable, and possible breeding records range over the south providence from Ontario to Saskatchewan border and from the U.S. border north to Victoria Beach, Lake St. Martin, and Dauphin. Found most often in mature deciduous or mature mixed woods. NEW BRUNSWICK: Breeding Bird Survey data presents evidence of <500 pairs. This providence is considered the northeast limits to its range. Found in the southwest corner of New Brunswick in hardwoods and some residential areas. Population is considered stable; no evidence or reason for decline (Erskine 1992). NOVA SCOTIA: Uncommon with few confirmed breeding records broadly scattered over central and southern Nova Scotia (Erskine 1992). ONTARIO: Common where it occurs in Ontario. Estimates indicate lower abundance near northern edge of range than in the south. Extent of the range appears to follow habitat preference. Southern Ontario contains more deciduous forests than the northern areas. Agricultural areas of the southwest may explain the gaps of breeding range in this region (Cadman 1987). QUEBEC: Population is stable. SASKATCHEWAN: Confirmed breeding in Moose Mountain Providence Park and Indian Head area. Probable breeding in Moosomin area. It is likely that this species breeds in areas other than the southeast, but no records are maintained.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) considers Myiarchus crinitus to be of least concern as it has a large geographic range and population numbers are high and stable. Like most birds, this species is negatively affected by several human activities including pesticide use, large man-made structures built in migratory pathways, and conversion of forests to urban or agricultural areas. These activities result in decreased food availability, collision mortality, and habitat loss, respectively. One large concern for all cavity nesting species is the loss of standing dead trees (snags) during "clean" forestry practices where these trees are often removed for aesthetic reasons. Snags are critical for these species as they provide highly suitable locations for nest cavities. In some areas, nest boxes have been employed to provide alternative nesting sites. Nesting success within these nest boxes is overall comparable to that of natural cavities and may be a viable management tool if habitats continue to decline.
US Migratory Bird Act: protected
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
- 2010. "BirdLife International. Myiarchus crinitus" (On-line). IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed June 12, 2011 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/145324/0.
- Miller, K. 2002. Nesting success of the great crested flycatcher in nest boxes and in tree cavities: are nest boxes safer from nest predation?. The Wilson Bulletin, 114/2: 179-185.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a stable population in North America between 1966 and 1993 and also from 1984 to 1993 (Price et al. 1995). Litwin and Smith (1992) noted a 38% increase in numbers in northeastern forest fragments between 1950 and 1980. It is possible that this flycatcher is benefitting from the creation of openings in continuous forest (Cadman et al. 1987) and increased fragmentation. Reports of population increases may indicate a rise in fragmented landscapes.
Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses
Comments: Greatest threat is loss and excessive fragmentation of breeding and winter habitat. Even though this bird appears to favor open woods, specific effects caused by habitat alterations are unclear. Possible effects include increased nest predation by edge species and nest competition. Relatively unmolested by the brown-headed cowbird (MOLOTHRUS ATER) because of its hole nesting habit (Friedmann 1963). However, European starlings (STURNUS VULGARIS) are an aggressive competitor for nest sites (Bent 1942). Snakes and squirrels may also destroy some eggs and young. Snake predation on nesting birds in boxes may be fairly high (Taylor and Kershner 1991). Some argue that the loss of habitat is less strongly related to species densities than to change in habitat features within an altered area (Martin 1992). Individual species react differently to habitat changes. Little is known of the relationship between the flycatcher and its habitat features, especially where habitat manipulations are occurring. Pin-pointing specific threats affecting this species is difficult due to this lack of information.
Restoration Potential: Currently reported common and stable throughout its range with only a few speculations of decline. Population restoration is currently not an issue. However, efforts should be made to maintain populations, thus eliminating the need for restoration in the future. See Mitchell (1988) for specifications for the construction and placement of nest boxes.
Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: At this time, specific habitat requirements are not documented. However, suggestions for conserving area-sensitive birds in forest landscapes were offered by Robbins et al. (1989). They concluded that forest areas under 10 ha are unsuitable and 3,000 ha is the minimum forest size that may retain all the species of forest-interior avifauna of eastern North America. These guidelines may not be specific to this edge-favoring species. However, managing forests for generalist species will adversely impact area-sensitive species such as the wood thrush (HYLOCICHLA MUSTELINA). For this reason, efforts to conserve Neotropical migrant populations should focus on requirements for area-sensitive species. In addition, critical habitat features that influence species success have not been thoroughly investigated (Martin 1992). These habitat features will have a great influence on future preserve designs.
Management Requirements: Specific management needs are poorly known.
Management Research Needs: In order to understand specific management needs, additional life history information is needed. In addition, effects of forest loss and fragmentation need to be addressed. Issues of primary concern should include: 1) effects of habitat loss in wintering and breeding ranges, 2) identification of specific habitat features (e.g., habitat size, composition) and associated resources that directly influence reproduction and survival, and 3) simultaneous consideration of the consequences of those features for coexisting species and any interacting species and the effects they have on one another (biodiversity approach) (Martin 1992).
Biological Research Needs: Very little is known about the behavior and biology of the great crested flycatcher. Any information is worthwhile, including information on breeding behavior, diet and foraging, winter range, and habitat relationships.
Global Protection: Few to several (1-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: Probably there are many protected occurrences.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects of Myiarchus crinitus on humans.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Currently, Myiarchus crinitus provides no known economic benefits to humans.
Stewardship Overview: This common forest bird of eastern and central North America prefers semi-open habitats and edges and may benefit from forest fragmentation. BBS data indicate that populations are stable and may be increasing in some areas, unlike other Neotropical migrants. Because little is known about its relationships with its environment, any correlations between habitat and abundance are speculative. In order to maintain populations, efforts are needed to understand this bird's seasonal requirements. Three management needs have been identified and should cover seasonal ranges: 1) research focusing on natural history and specific habitat requirements, 2) increased monitoring of populations, and 3) research on affects of habitat manipulation (e.g., fragmentation, forest loss).
Great crested flycatcher
The great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) is a large insect-eating bird of the tyrant flycatcher family. It is the most widespread member of the genus, Myiarchus, in North America and is found over most of the eastern and mid-western portions of the continent. It dwells mostly in the treetops and rarely is found on the ground.
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Adult great crested flycatchers usually measure between 17–21 cm (6.7–8.3 in) in length with a wingspan of around 34 cm (13 in). This bird usually weighs between 27–40 g (0.95–1.41 oz).
The great crested flycatcher does not display sexual dimorphism. All adults are brownish on the upperparts with yellow underparts; they have a long rusty brown tail and a bushy crest. Their throat and breast are grey.
Their breeding habitat is deciduous or mixed forests across eastern North America. They nest in a cavity in a tree. Usually a snake skin is included in the lining of the nest, but sometimes a plastic wrapper is substituted.
The call of these birds is a whistled weep.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Myiarchus crinitus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Alderfer, Jonathan, Ed. (2008). National Geographic Complete Birds of North America. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. p. 396. ISBN 0-7922-4175-4.
- "All About Birds: Great Crested Flycatcher". Cornell Laboratories of Ornithology. Retrieved 2008-06-12.