Great Crested FlycatcherMyiarchus crinitus (Linnaeus)
Status Uncommon transient, rare in summer. Breeds. It was first recorded on 30 May 1931 at New Minas, Kings County. It generally first appears in small numbers in the second half of May (average 22 May, earliest 10 May), and a few scattered pairs or individuals may be found in mainland counties during summer. Fall sightings are not common, but most are seen from late August through September, with last sightings routinely in October (average 25 October, latest 13 November). Two December 1973 records did not provide sufficient detail to eliminate the possibility of confusion with the Ash-throated Flycatcher.
Description Length: 20.5-23 cm. Adults: Throat and breast pearl-gray; belly sulphur yellow; upperparts (except tail) brown washed with olive-green; tail rufous; outer primaries margined with pale rufous.
Breeding Nest: A cavity in a tree, a natural cavity being used as commonly as one excavated by a woodpecker. It is copiously lined with grass, sometimes twigs, and often with a piece of cast snakeskin or, more frequently in recent years, plastic wrapping. Eggs: 4-6; creamy white, streaked and blotched with chocolate-brown.
It was first found nesting at Prince's Lodge, near Halifax, on 5 August 1956, as reported by Lloyd B. Macpherson, who watched three well-fledged young being fed by a parent; he also saw a pair at Rockingham, Halifax County, in the early 1960s showing much interest in a man-made nest box. At Milton, Queens County, J. Roy Gordon had two nests (1963 and 1966) in the same natural cavity of an old apple tree on his property. The nests were about 50 cm below the entrance and their contents were not visible; the birds scolded vociferously in mid-June when the nest tree was first approached, but by the end of June, by which time they were carrying food to the young, they were shy and would disappear when he approached the nest. On 18 July 1967 a pair was seen feeding on the Gordon premises but there was no nesting that year.
Range Breeds from east-central Alberta to Nova Scotia, and south to Florida and Texas. Winters in Florida and Cuba and from Mexico to Colombia.
Remarks This rare bird might be confused with the somewhat less rare Western Kingbird. The tail of the Great Crested Flycatcher is bright chestnut but that of the kingbird is almost black, with conspicuously whitish outer feathers.
A greater possibility of misidentification is with the Ash-throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens, of the southwestern United States, which is an occasional latefall vagrant in the northeastern United States. In appearance it is like a small Great Crested Flycatcher, but its upperparts are more grayish and its underparts are much paler. Two birds suspected of being this species have been seen in Nova Scotia, but too briefly for positive identification.
This bird's habit of lining its nest with cast snakeskins is unique among Nova Scotia birds. One theory is that this is a ruse to frighten off would-be predators.
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Photo courtesy of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center