People passionate about nature

Least Flycatcher

Above: Least Flycatcher (photo by Peter Taylor)

What does it look like?

The Least Flycatcher belongs the genus Empidonax, probably the most difficult group of birds in North America to identify. All are about chickadee-sized, with olive-brown upperparts, paler underparts and double wingbars. Four species of empid occur in Manitoba, of which the Least Flycatcher is the commonest and most widespread. It is best identified by its voice – a sharp “chebek” - and its habitat: deciduous and mixed woodlands, riverbottom forest and farmbluffs.

Does it migrate?

Being an insect eater, all Empidonax flycatchers in Manitoba have to spend the winter in warmer climes. The Least Flycatcher migrates away in August and September to Mexico and Central America and returns in May.

Above: Least Flycatcher (photo by Peter Taylor)

Where does it live?

This flycatcher is found throughout Manitoba, albeit rarely as far north as the Hudson Bay coast. It is most common in the southern third of the province, although less so in extensive farmland, where it is limited by a lack of woodland.

Where can I see it?

It is easiest to see this empid during migration, in city parks, along riverbanks and lake shores. In summertime some of the highest breeding densities anywhere are along the south shore of Lake Manitoba – Delta is a good location.

Above: Least Flycatcher (photo by Peter Taylor)


As an insect eater, this species is under threat from pesticides throughout its range. In addition, loss of habitat in the winter range poses a threat. Although the species has declined in numbers over its range in Canada, in Manitoba numbers have remained stable.

Did you know?

Much research into the Least Flycatcher has taken place at the former University of Manitoba Field Station at Delta. The loss of this facility due to severe storm damage a number of years ago is lamentable, as was the decision not to rebuild.

Written by: Deanna Dodgson