Vermilion flycatcher

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Vermilion flycatcher
Vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) male 2.JPG
in the Pantanal, Brazil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Tyrannidae
Genus: Pyrocephalus
Gould, 1839
Species: P. rubinus
Binomial name
Pyrocephalus rubinus
(Boddaert, 1783)

The vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is a small passerine bird in the Tyrannidae, or tyrant flycatcher family. Most flycatchers are rather drab, but the vermilion flycatcher is a striking exception. It is a favorite with birders, but is not generally kept in aviculture, as the males tend to lose their vermilion coloration when in captivity.


When Pieter Boddaert first described the vermilion flycatcher in 1783, from a specimen collected in Tefé, Brazil, he assigned it to the genus Muscicapa, believing it to be related to the many Old World flycatchers already belonging to that genus.[2] By the 1830s, however, taxonomists realized that Old World and New World flycatchers were not closely related, and the New World birds were moved from their former genera. In 1839, John Gould created the current genus Pyrocephalus for the vermilion flycatcher.[3] While it is considered a monotypic genus by many authorities, some taxonomists believe that one or both of the vermilion flycatcher subspecies found on the Galápagos Islands merit species status.[2]

There are 12 widely recognized subspecies, which differ primarily in the color and saturation of the male's plumage and the color and amount of streaking of the female's. The boundaries between some of the subspecies are not well defined:[2]

The validity of a thirteenth subspecies, P. r. major, has been questioned, as its breeding grounds have never been found.[2]


The vermilion flycatcher is a small bird, measuring 13–14 cm (5.1–5.5 in) in length, with a mass between 11 and 14 g (0.39 and 0.49 oz).[2] It strongly dimorphic; males are bright red, with dark brown plumage. Females have a peach-colored belly with a dark gray upperside, and are similar to Say's phoebe.


Distribution and habitat[edit]

Vermilion flycatchers generally prefer somewhat open areas, and are found in trees or shrubs in savannah, scrub, agricultural areas, riparian woodlands, and desert as well, but usually near water. Their range includes almost all of Mexico; it extends north into the southwestern United States, and south to scattered portions of Central America, parts of northwestern and central South America, and on southwards to central Argentina. They are also found in the Galápagos Islands. It has ranged as far north as Canada.[5]



The flycatchers feed mostly on insects such as flies, grasshoppers and beetles. These are usually taken in mid-air, after a short sally flight from a perch.[6] It is an opportunistic feeder, and has been observed eating small fish.[7]


Female on nest

The vermilion flycatcher's nest is a shallow cup made of small twigs and soft materials, lined with hair; the nest's rim is often covered with lichen. Typically located within 6 ft (1.8 m) of the ground, the nest is placed in the horizontal fork of a tree branch.[8] They lay two or three whitish eggs in a nest made of twigs, stems and roots, and lined with hair. The eggs are incubated for around two weeks by the female and the young are ready to leave the nest 15 days after hatching.

Conservation and threats[edit]

Because of its enormous range and sizable population—estimated as ranging between 5,000,000 and 50,000,000 individuals—the vermilion flycatcher is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, despite the fact that its overall numbers are declining.[1] Some of its subspecies, however, are known to be in trouble. P. r. dubius, which was once reportedly common on San Cristóbal, has not been recorded from that island since the mid-1980s, and is thought to be extinct.[4] The other Galápagos subspecies, P. r. nanus, is also declining precipitously, principally as a result of the spread of the nonnative smooth-billed ani across the archipelago.[9] The ani is known to be predatory, sometimes killing (though apparently not eating) nestling flycatchers.[10]

The flycatcher is also an occasional victim of brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds.[11]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Pyrocephalus rubinus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Farnsworth and Lebbin (2004), p. 375.
  3. ^ "ITIS Report: Pyrocephalus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Hume, Julian P.; Walters, Michael (2012). Extinct Birds. London, UK: A & C Black. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-4081-5861-6. 
  5. ^ Swift, Thomas C. (October 1950). "First Occurrence of Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephatus rubinus, in Canada" (PDF). The Auk. 67 (4): 517–518. doi:10.2307/4081112. 
  6. ^ de A. Gabriel, Vagner; Pizo, Marco A. (2005). "Foraging behavior of tyrant flycatchers (Aves, Tyrannidae) in Brazil" (PDF). Revista Brasileira de Zoologia. 22 (4): 1072–1077. doi:10.1590/S0101-81752005000400036. 
  7. ^ Andrews, Brenda J.; Sullivan, Marie; Hoerath, J. David (June 1996). "Vermilion Flycatcher and Black Phoebe Feeding on Fish" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin. 108 (2): 377–378. 
  8. ^ Davie, Oiver (1898). Nests and Eggs of North American Birds. Columbus, OH, US: Landon Press. p. 314. LCCN 06-23231. 
  9. ^ Walsh, Stephen; Mena, Carlos F., eds. (2013). Science and Conservation in the Galapagos Islands: Frameworks & Perspectives. New York, NY, US: Springer Science and Business Media. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-1-4614-5794-7. 
  10. ^ Olivares, Antonio; Munves, J. A. (October 1973). "Predatory Behavior of Smooth-Billed Ani" (PDF). The Auk. 90 (4): 891. doi:10.2307/4084373. 
  11. ^ Hanna, Wilson C. (July 1936). "Vermilion Flycatcher a Victim of the Dwarf Cowbird in California" (PDF). The Condor. 38 (4): 174. doi:10.2307/1363600. 


  • Farnsworth, A.; Lebbin, D. J. (2004). "Vermilion Flycatcher". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David. Handbook of Birds of the World, volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-69-5. 

External links[edit]