La Sagra’s Flycatcher

Content for this page researched and created by Ryan Kieffer.

La Sagra’s Flycatcher

The La Sagra’s Flycatcher (Myiarchus sagrae) is in the flycatcher family which is one of the largest groups of birds on earth (Birds of North America). Although they belong to one of the biggest families of bird, the La Sagra’s Flycatcher is not extremely abundant and is in fact quite an uncommon bird (Lloyd and Slater). The species was first described in 1852 (“Field Guide to Birds”) by Johannes Gunlach and was named after Don Ramon de La Sagra (Vega).  According to one study done by The Ecostduies Institute in the Grand Bahamas, only 4 birds of this species was found in a one month span.

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Flycatcher on limb looking left. (Allan Hopkins)

Similar to the Cuban Trogon, the La Sagra’s Flycatcher is native to the Caribbean (“La Sagra’s Flycatcher”). More specifically, it is found most abundantly in western Caribbean. In years past, the flycatchers have been found almost exclusively in the Bahamas, Cuba, Isle of Pines, and the Grand Cayman (Howell, Lewington, and Rusell).  Although this species of bird is found primary in the Caribbean and south of the United states, it has also been spotted a number of times in Florida (Tallman) and was spotted for the first time in the United States in Alabama in the 1980s (“La Sagra’s Flycatcher).

Even though this species is found in one specific area, it is generally hard to find and study, and in most cases, the species is overlooked (Howell, Lewington, and Rusell). These birds are generally found by the coast (Howell, Lewington, and Russell) in higher elevations (Vega) in coppices and pine forests (Lloyd). The La Sagra’s Flycatcher is found most abundantly in old growth pine forests (Lloyd) which they rely exclusively on to reproduce (Lloyd and Slater). In these forests, they undergo a prebasic molt that begins in August, and ends in November (Pyle, McAndrews, Velez, Wilkson, Siegel, and DeSante). The age of the bird can be determined based on these molt limits, patterns and shapes and the conditions of the coverts (Pyle, McAndrews, Velez, Wilkson, Siegel, and DeSante).  This species will never be found in areas such as wetlands, shoreline/flats, mangroves/scrubs, or human modified areas (Lloyd).

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Flycatcher perched on concrete bird bath. (Allan Hopkins)

One would think that being in such a specific area would make the La Sagra’s Flycatcher easy to find and study, but this is incorrect. They are actually very difficult to observe which in part could be due to the physical appearance of the species. They are a rather small and dull bird (Howell, Lewington, and Russell) that has very few distinguishable features. The average La Sagra’s Flycatcher is approximately 8 inches tall (Garrido) with a wingspan of 10.5 inches (Tallman). The species has a brownish olive back, a gray upper belly and chin and a very pale yellow belly (Garrido). The bill is entirely black (Garrido) and is erectile while eating (Birds of North America). The wings are long and have dark cinnamon-brown inner webs (Garrido). Many researchers believe that the La Sagra’s Flycatcher is a close relative to the Stolid Flycatcher and may have even been the same species at one point. Evolution obviously occurred though, creating the La Sagra’s species. The Stolid and La Sagra’s flycatcher share may of the same physical characteristics (Howell, Lewington, and Russell). Along with resembling the Stolid Flycatcher, the La Sagra’s Flycatcher is also said to resemble the Old World Flycatcher (“Bird Genus”).

Although the bird species is rather dull and bland, the eggs of the La Sagra’s Flycatcher are unique. The eggs are generally yellow-white with brown and violet spots (Garrido). The females generally lay 2 sets of eggs (Wiley). One set of eggs is referred to as a clutch (Wiley). Each of these sets or clutches contains 3 eggs (Wiley). According to Orlando H. Garrido, however, these birds lay four eggs per clutch. This species makes its nest out of a variety of materials (Wiley) incuding dry grass, hair, rootlets, and feathers (Garrido).  Nests are never built out in the open but instead are usually located in dead branch holes and woodpecker holes (Garrido). One study published by Paul A. Allen in the Wilson Bulletin observed that the Flycatchers often try to take over barn swallows’ nests. Allen observed that the La Sagra’s Flycatcher and barn swallows frequently “battled” for these nests. In the end the swallows almost always maintained control of their nesting sites (Allen).

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Flycatcher on single limb looking to the right. (Allan Hopkins)

These birds are very active (Birds of North America). They are often referred to as “outfield”, “swatting”, “zapper”, and “zipper” flycatchers because of their rapid and continuous movements in flight (“Field Guide to Birds”). Due to how active they are, and their dull physical appearance, they are best located by their call (Howell, Lewington, and Russell). Their call is “slightly slurred whistle zweenk or rising wink, repeated twice (Howell, Lewington, and Russell). The sound can also be described as a “wheet-ze-wheet” or a buzzy “brr” (“La Sagra’s Flycatcher”). The rapid movements of this bird in flight are an important adaptation that enables it to gather its primary food (flying insects) (“Bird Genus”). In addition to eating insects, they may eat also fruit (“Bird Genus”) and they also prey on the Blue-fanned Anole in the Grand Caymans (Powell and Henderson).

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Flycatcher perched looking over left shoulder. (Francesco Veronesi)

There are no known threats to this species (“Field Guide to Birds”) which is quite unique. Even though there are no known threats, as a whole, the population trend of the La Sagra’s Flycatcher is gradually decreasing (Species). This decline is probably due to habitat loss in an increasingly industrialized landscape. These flycatchers can only live in pine forests and areas that has little to no interaction with humans. Even with the gradual decline in population, the numbers are not significant enough to make the species endangered or worry about endangerment just yet (Species).


Scientific Resources

Allen, Paul E. “Breeding Biology and Natural History of the Bahama Swallow.” The Wilson Bulletin 108. 3 (1996): 480-495. LionSearch. 29 Sept. 2015.

DeBenedicts, Paul A.  “Coming! A New Official Checklist of North American Birds-a Revolution in Avian Nomenclature.” American Birds  37.1 (1983): 3-8. Google Scholar. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.

Lloyd, John D., and Gary L. Slater. Ecostudies Institute. Rapid Ecological Assessment of the Avian Community and Their Habitats on Andros, The Bahamas. 2010. Google Scholar. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Pyle, Peter, Amy McAndrews, Pilar Veléz, Robert L. Wilkerson, Rodney B. Siegel, and David F. DeSante “Molt Patterns and Age and Sex Determination of Selected Southeastern Cuban Landbirds.” Journal of Field Ornithology 75.2 (2004): 136-145. Google Scholar. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Lloyd, John D., and G.L. Slater.  “Abundance and distribution of breeding birds in the pine forests of Grand Bahama, Bahamas.” Journal of Caribbean Ornithology 24.1 (2011): 1–9. Google Scholar. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Pelikan, Matthew L. “Bird Sightings From The Hotlines, March-April 2003.” Winging It 15.5 (2003): 11. Wildlife & Ecology Studies Worldwide. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Perkins, J. P., and Perkins Ruth L. “The La Sagra’s Flycatcher (Myiarchus Sagrae).” Redstart 50.3 (1983): 93-95. Wildlife & Ecology Studies Worldwide. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Powell, Robert, and Robert W. Henderson. “Avian Predators of West Indian Reptiles.” Iguana 15.1 (2008): 8-11. Google Scholar. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.

Sharpe, R. Bowdler. “On the Genus Todus.” Ibis 16.4 (1874): 344-355. Google Scholar. Web. 30 September 2015.

Smith, P. William, and Evered Duncan Stuart. “La Sagra’s Flycatcher.” Birding 24.5 (1992): 294-297. Wildlife & Ecology Studies Worldwide. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Wiley, James W. “Bird Egg and Nest Specimens in the Collection of the Instituto De Ecología Y Sistemática, La Habana, Cuba.” Journal of Caribbean Ornithology 25.1  (2012): 15-23. Google Scholar. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

General References

“Bird Genus: Myiarchus (Tyrant Flycatchers).” Beauty Of Birds. Avianweb., 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.

La Sagra’s Flycatcher.  Field Guide to Birds of North America. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Garrido, Orlando H., Román Compañy, and Arturo Kirkconnell. Birds of Cuba. London: Christopher Helm, 2000. Print.

Howell, Steve N. G., Ian Lewington, and Will Russell. Rare Birds of North America. Princeton University Press. 2014. Print.

Lanyon, Wesley. Evidence of an Incomplete Prealternate Molt in Some South American Myiarchus Flycathers. Santa Clara: Cooper Ornithological Society, 2013. Print.

La Sagra’s Flycatcher. Audubon. 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

La Sagra’s Flycatcher. La Sagra’s Flycatcher | La Sagra’s Flycatcher Pictures | Flycatchers of North America | Birds. Birds of North America, 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

“Species.” La Sagra’s Flycatcher (Myiarchus sagrae). BirdLife International, 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Tallman, Dan A. “La Sagra’s Flycatcher.”  Species Information and Photos. South Dakota Birds, 2007. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Vega, Yasit Segovia. “La Sagra’s Flycatcher (Myiarchus Sagrae).” Overview –. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2010. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Image references

 Flickr. Yahoo! 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

  1. Flycatcher perched on concrete bird bath. (Allan Hopkins) (Some rights reserved)

Flickr. Yahoo! 3 January 2013 Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

  1. Flycatcher perched looking over left shoulder. (Francesco Veronesi) (Some rights reserved)

Flickr. Yahoo! 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

  1. Flycatcher on limb with other limbs in background looking left. (Allan Hopkins (Some rights reserved)

Flickr. Yahoo! 22 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

  1. Flycatcher on single limb looking to the right. (Allan Hopkins) (Some rights reserved)