GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER – (Myiarchus crinitus)
The Great crested flycatcher measures approximately 20 cm (8 in.) long, a length true to its name. The same cannot be said for the crest, which is not very visible. The head is large, the body slim and the tail long. The belly is lemon yellow, the upper parts reddish-brown except for the face, throat and breast, which are grey. The bill and the legs are dark grey. The bill is short and straight, but large at the base. Sexes are similar. This species is the one with the most colors in the flycatcher family.
The Latin genus name, ‘myiarchus’, means ‘ruling over flies’, and ‘crinitus’ means ‘long hair’.
The great crested flycatcher is also the only species in its family to nest in a cavity, whether naturally made or man-made. It has the peculiar habit of lining its nest with a snakeskin, and it is thought that it may help ward off predators. When this item is not available, sometimes the bird will use onionskin or plastic wrap instead.
The call of the great crested flycatcher is a loud ‘wheeep’ or ‘breeep’, and this helps locate the bird. Since it spends its time high in the trees, it is easier to hear than see.
This bird is found mainly at edges of mature deciduous forests, and seems to thrive in fragmented habitats. As with other flycatchers, it usually perches high in the tree canopy and catches insects on the fly, but will also pursue some on leaves. It will then return to the same perching spot. When on the ground, which is not often, it will fly from one spot to another rather than walk or hop. The great crested flycatcher also eats some berries, swallowing them whole and then spitting out the seeds.
The great crested flycatcher breeds on PEI, but sightings of this bird species have only been reported as ‘occasional’ so far, in the summer. This is because PEI is situated at the north east end of its overall breeding range, which covers the south eastern half of Canada and the eastern half of the USA. It migrates to southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and the northern tip of South America for the winter, where its behavior in terms of habitat and diet and singing is similar.