Observation Highlight of the Week: Empidonax flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher)

Observational Highlight #15: Empidonax flaviventris (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

© Jacob Saucier (@saucierj), some rights reserved (CC-BY)

Hello everyone,

Welcome back to another installment of our weekly observational highlight series for the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve. This week's entry will dip back into the diverse avian biodiversity which occurs within the isolated eastern front of the Blue Ridge. We are lucky to have a small group of dedicated birders who have added to our understanding of the sky-bound fauna here at Bull Run. Observers uploading to the ebird hotspot located on our southern trail system has recorded over 110 species! This is nearly double the number of species recorded in this iNaturalist project, reinforcing the strengths, weaknesses, and values the variety of available citizen science resources bring to our goals of better understanding and recording natural observations. However, this week's highlight brings a species that has not yet been recorded in the south section of The Preserve, instead has been encountered at the restricted northern research outpost. Smithsonian ornithologist and friend of the preserve, @saucierj, captured this amazing shot during a recent visit - resulting in the addition of a valuable observation for an infrequently observed species in our area.

The yellow-bellied flycatcher is a seasonal migrant in the Tyrant flycatcher family, Tyrannidae, which includes approximately 400 species across their New World distribution. The Avian family is one of the largest in the world and observes some of the greatest diversity of any other family in the America's. Like many migrants, the species overwinters in the more equatorial latitudes of Southern Mexico and Central America. During the migration season, the species makes its way through our area en route to its breeding grounds around the Great Lakes and beyond into Canada. The species is insectivorous and prefers habitats consisting of wet forests. The species is also known for constructing a nest with sphagnum moss - hopefully, the low, wet temperate forest of Bull Runs Northern section is somewhat of an encouraging stop-off of what is come in the species' movement northward.

This species is not totally unknown in the area, and has been frequently recorded across both iNaturalist and eBird. The observation featured below is of another individual Yellow-bellied flycatcher observed at the Clifton Institute, another great natural sanctuary in Fauquier County. Based on these two pictures below you can see the subtle differences in coloration which were noted in the discussion of our Bull Run subject.

This feature also highlights one of the greatest aspects of iNaturalist - community collaboration! Empids, as the genus is known by the birding community, are notoriously difficult for the non-experts to identify. There is also a degree of subtle variation with the group which can make even seasoned veterans question their own identifications. This can prove both frustrating (as per this authors experience is identifying members of this genus) and as exciting challenge for those versed in both phenotypic and acoustic id. The individual highlighted this week is the later, as can be viewed in the discussion section of the observation. In addition to knowing field marks for an otherwise silent individual bird, the preserved specimen collection at the Smithsonian Institution served in reassuring that the seasonal variation in plumage corresponded correctly for that species. It's these sorts of back-and-forth conversations between skilled naturalist that provide those less adept to learn and develop in the realm of wildlife identification - especially for those tricky and uncommon species. This author definitely took something away from this observation and will be a better equipped naturalist for it.

We'll continue to take look into more of #BullRunMountains native avian species in a future #biodiversityhighlight.

© Bert Harris (@bertharris), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short article please leave a comment below to help us gauge community impact for our annual summary. Additionally, if you have any questions, comments, or corrections leave them below. While niche, this platform provides a unique opportunity for naturalists, professionals, and enthusiasts to share their insights and stories regarding the amazing biodiversity that surrounds all of us. If you are interested in visiting the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area preserve or attending public events, please check the links below for more information.

Please note that the VOF owned and operated Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is protected by the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Virginia Department of Conservation Recourses. Except for certain specific situations, camping, fires, unleashed pets, hunting, off-road vehicles and removal or destruction of plants, animals, minerals or historic artifacts are prohibited. Please respect our community natural and cultural resources.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

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Publicado el septiembre 9, 2022 06:12 TARDE por mjwcarr mjwcarr


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