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Friday, June 1, 2012

It's an Olive-sided Flycatcher!

Earlier tonight I was pulling weeds when I first heard the song - an unfamiliar but very distinctive three-note tune coming from high up in the trees behind our house. Needless to say, all weeding stopped. I scanned the trees with my binoculars - no luck. The song kept playing intermittently, fuelling my curiosity - which was quickly becoming a minor obsession. At one point I thought I saw a bird WAY UP in a distant tree but it was too far away to even know for sure that it was a bird, so I went in and got my scope. With that I could see the outline of the bird but it was too far away to make out the colouring or shape. But I noticed that it behaved like the flycatchers I had watched in Mexico, sallying out from the top of a tree to catch flying insects and returning to the same perch. Could it be a flycatcher? Here, on Gabriola?

Olive-sided Flycatcher
Photo by Dominic Sherony - CC License

I went in, got out my BC Bird Songs CD, and played all the tracks of flycatcher songs until - yes, that's it!! - an olive sided flycatcher! (It was kind of like finally being able to scratch a serious itch!) The song is described as sounding like "quick three beers" - with the emphasis on the 'three'.  You can listen to the song at

At Cornell's All About Birds site I discovered that the olive-sided flycatcher, which comes to BC from South America to breed in the summer, is rated Near-Threatened by the IUCN.

If you live on the north end of the island, I hope that this post will save you the angst of trying to identify the unusual birdsong coming from the forest. Of course, it's possible there are olive-sided flycatchers on the south end too - has anyone heard or seen one??


Anonymous said...

Is there an Olive-Sided Caterpiller-catcher? With all the tent caterpillers around, I was wondering what kind of birds dine on them?

Sharon said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your question, which prompted me to do some research. According to several sources, there are many birds that live on Gabriola (or are passing through now) that eat tent caterpillars, in either the larval or adult form: jays, crows, starlings, nuthatches, chickadees, song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, scarlet tanagers (not certain about the western tanager, but probably) and many varieties of warbler. I guess this is why our infested Japanese cherry tree has survived!

If you'd like some links about caterpillars and the birds that dine on them, please email me at and I'll send them to you.