Empidonax virescens

Status:  Locally uncommon regular spring migrant southeast, rare casual elsewhere. Locally uncommon regular breeder southeast, accidental northeast. Rare casual fall migrant east, accidental central.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM10562, 30 May 1910 Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).

Changes Since 2000: This species has consolidated its range northward in the Missouri River Valley since the 1990s; there has been a notable increase in numbers reported at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co since 2009, and at least 1-2 have been reported at Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co since 2010.

Spring: May 5, 5, 6 <<<>>> summer

An earlier date is 3 May 2014 Richardson Co.

As this species has increased in numbers in the lower Missouri River Valley, May reports have become more numerous, although most are from known breeding locations at Indian Cave SP, Nemaha and Richardson Cos and Fontenelle Forest.

There are three reports west and north of Indian Cave SP, Fontenelle Forest, and Wilderness Park suggestive of spring overshoot migrants: a singing bird identified as this species by comparison of its song to tapes was at Ponca SP, Dixon Co 24 May 2000, a specimen, UNSM ZM9389, was collected in Cherry Co 29 May 1932, and four were netted, banded, and identified as this species by wing formula at Cedar Point Biological Station, Keith Co, 21-29 May 1996 (Brown et al 1996).

  • High counts:  12 at Indian Cave SP 28 May 2012, 12 there 8 Jun 2019, 10 there 2 Jun 2019, and 8 there 22 May 2004.

Summer: This species has become regular in summer only recently at Indian Cave SP and Fontenelle Forest. The first record in the southeast was in northern Douglas Co, where at least one bird was present at Hummel Park 14-21 Jul through 3 Sep 1990 (Grzybowski 1990, 1991a). It nested at the same location in 1991 but a storm 22 Jun destroyed the nest (Grzybowski 1991b). There were sporadic reports in the Douglas and Sarpy Cos area, most at Fontenelle Forest, 4 Jun 1992, 3 Jun 1994, 24 Jun 2002, two on 6 Jun 2004, and 1 Jul 2006, but in 2009 reports at Fontenelle Forest began to increase and became annual.  In 2013 there were seven reports there of 14 birds 11-26 May, but peak count was three, suggesting duplication of sightings; at least four males were present in 2015.

There has been little information published on early sightings at Indian Cave SP; the first known record there was 15 Jun 1994. There were up to three birds on Trail 9 through 25 Jun 1995, and since then it has been a fairly common component of the avifauna there, although nesting has not been confirmed. The best count to date is 12 on 28 May 2012, although recent standardized surveys at this location suggest the number of birds at this site during June may number in the hundreds (Jorgensen et al 2014).

There have been persistent reports of 1-2 singing males at Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co since the first reports there 19-23 May and 8 Jun in 2010. Since 2010, at least one Acadian Flycatcher has been present during summer; in 2012 two birds were present at different locations 5 Jun-14 Jul. An older Lancaster Co report was for 22 Jul 1988, and more recently one was at Spring Creek Prairie, Lancaster Co 18 May 2016.

An isolated northern nesting was in Thurston Co, where a pair was found 4 Jul 2000; a singing male had been present in the same area 13 Jun 1998 and a pair was there 13-14 Jun and 3 Jul 1999 (Jorgensen 2001). There are no other nesting records north of Hummel Park, Douglas Co.

The only additional breeding season sightings away from the known breeding locations discussed above are at Neale Woods, Douglas Co 30 May-4 Jul 1997, 12-19 Jun 1998, and 23-25 Jun 2016, in Cass Co 18 Jun 1991, 1-2 at Platte River SP, Cass Co 14-21 Jun 2008 and 20-28 Jun 2013, in western Douglas Co 20 Jun 2013, and one singing northwest of Verdigre in Knox Co 10-22 Jul 2009, first for the county (Mark Brogie, personal communication).

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Aug 10, 11, 12

Later dates are 16 Aug 2015 Richardson Co, 29 Aug 2019 Sarpy Co, 31 Aug 2019 Nemaha Co, 3 Sep 2003 two photographed and measured Thomas Co, 4 Sep 2020 Nemaha Co, 8 Sep 2015 Lancaster Co, and 11 Sep 2013 Douglas Co.

Departure occurs by mid-Aug. Substantiated records in Kansas extend to 30 Sep (Thompson et al 2011) and to 20 Sep in Missouri (Robbins 2018).

Comments: An adult male specimen assumed to have been collected by Cary in Sioux Co 26 May 1900 (Cary 1901, Crawford 1901, Rosche 1982) cannot now be located; Swenk and Dawson (1921), who also had not seen the specimen, suggested that Cary’s report may have been based on a misidentification, as a specimen taken in the same place two days later by Hunter and said to be identical in appearance to that of Cary was identified as “E. traillii brewsteri” (apparently a Willow Flycatcher) by Oberholser.

Prior to 1990 there were sporadic reports in the Missouri River Valley, including six egg dates 10 Jun-6 Jul for Douglas and Sarpy Cos during 1898-99 (Hanson 1952), and six nests in Sarpy Co in 1944 (Garrett 1944). These may refer to other species, however; Ducey (1988) suspected that “taxonomic confusion” might have been involved.


SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of an Acadian Flycatcher at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 28 May 2017 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Brown, C.R., M.B. Brown, P.A. Johnsgard, J. Kren, and W.C. Scharf. 1996. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station area, Keith and Garden Counties, Nebraska: Seasonal occurrence and breeding data. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 23: 91-108.

Cary, M. 1901. Birds of the Black Hills. Auk 18: 231-238.

Crawford, J.C., Jr. 1901. Results of a collecting trip to Sioux County. Proceedings of the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 2: 76-79.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Garrett, F.D. 1944. A survey of nesting birds in the Fontenelle Forest. NBR 12: 25-31.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1990. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 44: 1152-1154.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1991a. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 45: 122-124.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1991b. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 45: 1132-1134.

Hanson, M.L. 1952. Some oological records of Nebraska. NBR 20: 31-35.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2001. 1999 (Eleventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 69: 85-91.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2014. Breeding Bird Diversity, Abundance and Density at Indian Cave and Ponca State Parks, Nebraska, 2012-2014.  Nongame Bird Program of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Kent, T.H., and J.J. Dinsmore. 1996. Birds in Iowa. Publshed by the authors, Iowa City and Ames, Iowa, USA.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Robbins, M.B. 2018. The Status and Distribution of Birds in Missouri. University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Swenk, M.H., and R.W. Dawson. 1921. Notes on the distribution and migration of Nebraska birds I. Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae). Wilson Bulletin 33: 132-141.

Thompson, M.C., C.A. Ely, B. Gress, C. Otte, S.T. Patti, D. Seibel, and E.A. Young. 2011. Birds of Kansas.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 21 Jan 2021