Each spring for at least ten years a pair of flycatchers has nested near my door and raised 3-4 chicks. Here is a brief overview of the Pacific Slope Flycatcher, and a progression of photos highlighting their first 16 days of life.
The species breeds in a narrow range on the western coast of North America. Every winter they migrate to Mexico, every spring they visit us here in North America to raise their young. They prefer mixed coniferous-deciduous forests, which is where I live.
Empidonax difficilis have a longevity of about six years and they start breeding at one year old. A small bird of about 5 or 6 inches (14-17 cm), most people do not know anything about them. Due to an ornithological species split, the research is confusing and at times sketchy. You can read more about the species here.
Below are the photos of the four chicks who fledged last week. There is also an account of some of their ancestors’ antics over the past years, and how my partner and I came to assist our pacific slope flycatcher population.
If you are ever wondering how you can help with wildlife conservation, you might want to start by paying attention to what is going on in your own backyard. There are incredible miracles happening every day.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander
When the first pair started nesting here, the female built a precarious nest on our front door beam. Pieces of the nest would frequently fall down, and as the chicks got bigger, their nest crumbled even more. This happened every year.
One year on a sweltering summer day, I came home from work to find one of the chicks half-dead on the doorstep. I set a tiny dish of water in front of him, and caught a big juicy fly with a flyswatter. I set that freshly-dead fly in front of him, and hours later he flew off. He or she just needed a little refreshment and rejuvenation, like all of us.
The next spring we installed a nest box near the beam, just for them, hoping they would nest in it. But they preferred the beam, inadequate as it was.
Another year the entire nest with four hatchlings fell off the beam, slammed onto the deck. It was simply too big for the beam. I heard the commotion, my partner and I came running, and we snapped up the four devastated chicks that were scrambling in every direction. (They were incredibly reminiscent of little wind-up chicks seen at Easter time). We gently and quickly placed the mangled nest and startled chicks in the provided nest box. They were fine, grew up, flew off.
Birds tend to raise their families where they were raised. So it stands to reason that the pairs who have nested at our doorway are offspring of this tumbled nest. Now, however, they don’t bother nesting on that inadequate beam; they nest in the box that we installed just for them. They often raise two families, starting with the first clutch in May, then another clutch in June. This year we had a family at both our front door and back door.
The photos you see here were all taken this month at the back door nest. This is a convenient (for them) cubby hole. The nest in front that has the referenced nest box, has a female brooding on three perfect eggs at this moment. Each day is a new joy; each new spring is a glorious statement about the beauties of life and growth.
Thanks for your interest!