2birdfeature #12: Different but the same

20160621-dscn3961 The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and the American Redstart are nearly the same size but reside in completely different families. Though they differ in some life history traits, they catch their food the same way.

Flycatchers are acrobats of the air. They maneuver with such skill and grace that they can change direction midair almost instantaneously to catch prey. The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, whose unmistakable song goes "pee-WICK", feasts on flying ants, small beetles, flies, mosquitoes and spiders. They nest on the ground in cool, shady places and hatch 4 eggs per breeding season. They live to an age of ~4 years old.


The American Redstart, with a more striking plumage and warbler build, preys on insects in much the same way. Though it doesn't get as much credit as a flycatcher, its hunting method is just as impressive. The method is called a hover-glean. It is exactly what it sounds like. The little bird maintains its position in the air by consistently beating its wings and then when it spots prey, it redirects itself and dives at the insect.


Redstarts make their nests in trees and shrubs. They fashion a grass cup and weave it together with spider webs. They also lay 4 eggs but generally have about 50% success with their nestlings due to predation by squirrels.


We're doubling up on the Newfoundland birds this week. Join me Friday for two residents of Terra Nova National Park.