Least Flycatcher

Empidonax minimus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Luc Pouliot/Shutterstock.com

They can travel up to 72 miles in a single day.


Least Flycatcher Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Empidonax minimus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Least Flycatcher Conservation Status

Least Flycatcher Locations

Least Flycatcher Locations

Least Flycatcher Facts

Group Behavior
  • Colonial Nesting
  • Territorial
Fun Fact
They can travel up to 72 miles in a single day.
Estimated Population Size
27 million
Biggest Threat
Changes in habitat
Most Distinctive Feature
Bold eyering
Distinctive Feature
White band on wings
7.9 inches
Incubation Period
13 to 16 days
Age Of Fledgling
12 to 17 days
Nesting Location
in the fork of trees

Least Flycatcher Physical Characteristics

  • Grey
  • White
  • Dull Olive
Skin Type
Top Speed
72 mph
Over 8 years
0.3 to 0.8 ounces
4.7 to 5.5 inches

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Least Flycatcher Summary

The least flycatcher is a small species of bird that mainly eats insects. Despite their size, they are territorial. This means that they are prone to aggression toward other birds, including those much larger than themselves. Least flycatchers, like many other passerines, are a migratory species. 

Least Flycatcher Amazing Facts

  • They travel up to 72 miles a day, which allows them to migrate quickly.
  • Their entire mating and child-rearing process takes less than 60 days.
  • One individual used dragonfly wings in their nest.
  • Their striking eye-rings can identify them. 

Where to Find the Least Flycatcher

These species are common in the western hemisphere. They can be found in several different countries, from Canada to those in Central America. This includes Mexico and the United States as well. 

Least flycatchers spend the majority of their time in different types of forests and in shrubby fields. The two main forest types where they are found are semi-open deciduous and mixed forests. Least flycatchers of all ages are common here. These habitats are most frequently used during the breeding season.

In the winter months, least flycatchers don’t typically stray far from the forests. However, they can be found at the edge of wooded areas, in forested ravines, and in pastures as well. Regardless of the season, least flycatchers tend to avoid higher elevations.

Populations settling in Mexico may use tropical forests as their habitat. 

Least Flycatcher Nests

The breeding pair will work together to choose the right nesting location. Least flycatchers will make their nests in large deciduous trees. They will choose trees with an upright fork anywhere from 2 to 50 feet off the ground. This acts as a means of natural protection and structure for the nest.

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Female least flycatchers will build the nest. Nests can be made of plant materials such as bark, grasses, and fibers, and they can also feature animal components like spiderwebs, dragonfly wings, and animal fur. 

The final nest is small, averaging around 2.5 inches wide and 2 inches tall. It takes five to seven days for the female to finish building the nest. During this time frame, you may be able to see her flying to and from the nest in pursuit of materials. 

Least Flycatcher Scientific Name

The scientific name of the least flycatcher is Empidonax minimus.

It is in the Class Aves. This is the scientific class that includes all species of bird. It is in the Order Passeriformes and the Family Tyrannidae. This family, along with Muscicapidae, contains all species of flycatchers. Its genus is Empidonax, of which the least flycatcher is one of the smallest.

Least Flycatcher Size, Appearance, & Behavior

Least Flycatcher

The least flycatcher has a wingspan of 7.9 inches.

The least flycatcher is the smallest species of Empidonax in the eastern region of North America. Adults grow to be between 4.7 and 5.5 inches and weigh between 0.3 and 0.8 ounces. Their wingspan measures an average of 7.9 inches. 

Overall, lest flycatchers have a greyish olive coloration. They have a faint yellow coloring on their chest and belly. Their most notable figures are the bold white eyerings and wing bars they sport. 

Least flycatchers tend to gather in large flocks within the forest. They tend to be rather vocal, spending the summer months singing as fly from perch to perch. 

Migration Pattern and Timing

There are little to no significant year-round populations of the least flycatcher in the western hemisphere. During their nonbreeding season, they are found in the southernmost areas of their range. This includes southern Florida, coastal and southern Mexico, and Central America.

They are long-distance migrants. During their migratory period between breeding seasons, they can be spotted through central Mexico and the central and eastern United States. Much of their breeding range lies in the northernmost United States and Canada. 

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher Diet

Insects make up the largest portion of the least flycatcher’s diet. They are known to catch their prey either midair or by plucking them off vegetation. While insects are the main component of their diet, least flycatchers may occasionally eat plant materials as well. 

What Does the Least Flycatcher Eat?

Least flycatchers eat a wide variety of insects that are common to their native areas. This includes ants, beetles, butterflies, flies, and leaf hoppers. Nesting material has shown that they may also hunt dragonflies.

For the vegetative part of their diets, least flycatchers will eat blackberries, elderberries, and the seeds of different grasses. 

Least Flycatcher Predators and Threats

One of the largest threats to the least flycatcher population is disturbances in the forests they inhabit. This can be both human-influenced, such as logging, or natural, such as excessive grazing from animals like deer. The main characteristic of these disturbances is that they either change the forest canopy or result in large clearings. 

What Eats the Least Flycatcher?

There are many animals that prey on the least flycatcher. This includes adults, juveniles, and their nests. Some of the many predators of least flycatchers include:

Least Flycatcher Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Least flycatchers nest in clusters once they reach their breeding grounds. They are not monogamous species. Instead, they participate in a mating style known as extra-pair matings. This means that males and females will find other mates outside of their initial pairing. Cluster nesting is thought to aid in the search for mates and in adding protection for nests inside the cluster. 

The female will lay three to five eggs. Four eggs are the most common number per brood. The female incubates the eggs for 13 to 16 days while the male defends the territory and brings food to the nest. Once the young hatch, they are completely helpless. It takes 12 to 17 days for them to fledge and fly for the first time. In the meanwhile, both parents will take turns bringing food to the young least flycatchers. This will also continue for up to three weeks after the young fledge.

The oldest least flycatcher known in the wild was at least 8 years old.

Least Flycatcher Population

The least flycatcher is a species of least concern. They have a relatively healthy population throughout their range, although it has declined nearly by half in the past half-century. There are an estimated 27 million adult individuals. 

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

Least Flycatcher FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do least flycatchers migrate?

Least flycatchers are highly migratory birds.

How many eggs do least flycatchers lay?

Least flycatchers can lay between three and five eggs per brood. However, the most common number of eggs is four.

How fast does the least flycatcher fly?

The least flycatcher can reach speeds up to 72 mile per hour.

What is the least flycatcher's wingspan?

Their wingspan averages around 7.9 inches across.

When do least flycatchers leave the nest?

Least flycatchers are able to leave the nest around two weeks after they hatch. However, they often spend the next several weeks in the care of their parents.

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