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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus Conservation Status This species is widespread across southern Ontario. Like many aerial insectivores, Great Crested Flycatchers are showing population declines according to the Breeding Bird Survey. Still, it is generally holding its own, because of its wide spectrum of nesting habitats and tolerance for human activity. Breeding Biology The Great Crested Flycatcher breeds in open deciduous and mixed woodlands, along riparian corridors and edges, within swamps, and suburban areas. It is the only eastern flycatcher that nests in cavities. It prefers natural cavities in dead trees, often reusing a nest in subsequent years. The nest is bulky and includes materials such as leaves, grasses, hair, feathers, rootlets, bark, twigs, string, paper, and trash. One or more shed snakeskins are often included in the nest lining. In Ontario, it breeds from mid May to mid July, lays five whitish eggs heavily decorated with brown streaks, blotches, and lines, and raises a single brood per season. Diet The Great Crested Flycatcher is mainly insectivorous, but consumes some fruit and vertebrates. It sallies out from perches after flying insects, hovers to glean insects off leaves, and drops down from a perch to take prey on the ground. It hunts primarily in the upper canopy. Management Guidelines Although tolerant of most harvesting practices, dead trees (snags) or dead stubs in living trees are the nesting habitat of this cavity dependent bird and need to be retained under any management system. Open conditions associated with even-aged management may benefit Great Crested Flycatchers. Adult Great Crested Flycatcher with nestling — Photo: W. Greene/VIREO How to Find Unless you hear its loud, harsh calls, the rather secretive Great Crested Flycatcher is easily overlooked in the canopy foliage of a suburban lot or woodland. Listen for its most frequent and most diagnostic call. A loud, harsh whistled, rising “WHEEEEEP” call readily gives its presence away. Identification (17–21 centimetres) The Great Crested Flycatcher is a treetop species of deciduous forests and suburban areas that is easier to hear than to see. It is the largest and most brightly coloured flycatcher in eastern North America, having a bright yellow belly and cinnamon-rufous wings and tail. It has an olive back, grey breast and throat, pale edging on its wings, and a visible crest. The sexes are similar. Did you know? • The Great Crested Flycatcher snaps its bill loudly and rapidly when agitated. • This species only flies from place to place. It never walks or hops. • In very deep cavities, the female may add nesting material that is more than a metre deep so that the nest is no farther than 30 centimetres from the cavity entrance. 112 Bird Species Accounts

Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus 19 metres above ground and are covered by foliage from above but open to the ground below. Females typically lay three to four whitish eggs, speckled with brown. Diet Red-eyed Vireos consume insects, caterpillars in particular. They also eat various small fruits in late summer. They forage by picking insects from leaves and twigs mainly in the canopy and subcanopy. Identification (12–13 centimetres) One of the most common birds of deciduous and mixed woodlands of eastern North America, the Red-eyed Vireo is most noted for its relentless, monotonous song, rather than its red eye (which only occurs in adults). It is yellow-green above and white below. It has a pale eyebrow, dark eyeline, and grey cap bordered by dark stripes. Its legs, wings, and thick, hooked bill are grey. The sexes are identical. Conservation Status The Red-eyed Vireo is an abundant and widespread species, occurring wherever an understorey of shrubs and saplings exist, in all but conifer dominated stands. Surveys indicate a range-wide population increase of 1.2 percent annually since 1968, with the Ontario population alone estimated to be nine million birds. However, this species is also sensitive to forest fragmentation and cowbird parasitism, so its populations bear monitoring. Breeding Biology The Red-eyed Vireo breeds from the Northwest Territories across all of Canada, south through all of the northern, central, and eastern US states. It breeds in Ontario from early May through July, raising one brood. Vireos build a unique basket-like nest covered in tree bark, and suspended by its rim to the fork of a small branch of a tree or shrub. Nests range from one to Management Guidelines Populations are tolerant of small canopy openings created by thinning, group, and singletree selection, though densities may decline if canopy is decreased more than 30 percent. They are considered to be a forest-interior species, yet Red-eyed Vireos will visit fragments as small as 0.5 hectares. Since their presence and productivity are related to forest size, and because they remain a frequent cowbird host, vireos benefit from practices that reduce fragmentation and edge creation. Adult Red-eyed Vireo on nest — Photo: Mark Peck How to Find The repetitive whistled “here-I-am, where-are-you” song of the Red-eyed Vireo easily gives its presence away. Watch for it foraging deliberately along the outer periphery of tree branches within the canopy or subcanopy. Did you know? • The male Red-eyed Vireo can sing more than 20,000 times a day. • During courtship, the male performs a swaying display, standing in front of the female and swaying its upper body and head from side to side. • Upon finding an unwanted cowbird egg in the nest, the female will sometimes bury the egg with more nesting material and lay her clutch on top of it. • Vireos will often scold and attack Blue Jays and other predators when close to their nest. Bird Species Accounts 113

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