Status: Rare regular spring migrant east, rare casual central and west. Rare regular fall migrant east, rare casual central.
Documentation: Specimen: WSC 1027, 13 Sep 1982 Albion, Boone Co.
Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).
Spring: May 5, 8, 8 <<<>>> Jun 1 (Grzybowski 1991), 3, 4
Migration peaks in late May; six were reported 21-28 May in eastern Nebraska in 2013 and again 10-31 May 2017, an unusually high tally, although at least 11 were reported in 2020, probably as observers become more familiar with this species. There is a later date 8 Jun 2006, a calling bird at Mahoney SP, Cass Co.
Early arrival dates are uncertain. The earliest documented Nebraska records are of one banded at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 18 May 1996 (Brown et al 1996), a singing bird in Omaha, Douglas Co 25 May 2003, and one at Schramm SP, Sarpy Co 30 May 1995 (Gubanyi 1996). Tout (1947) carefully studied a male he had collected 16 May 1911 near North Platte, Lincoln Co until certain it was not a “Western Flycatcher”, although we question whether enough was known at that time to make the distinction. Documented Kansas records are in the period 4 May-5 Jun (Thompson et al 2011), and early dates in Iowa are May 4, 7, and 7 (Kent and Dinsmore 1996).
The westernmost reports, including only one for the Panhandle, are 12-13 May 1973 Thomas Co (Bray 1994), 16 May 1911 Lincoln Co (Tout 1947), one seen and heard 3 Jun 2001 at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co (Silcock 2001), and individuals banded at Cedar Point Biological Station, Keith Co 18 May 1996 and 3 Jun 1992 (Brown et al 1996).
Fall: Aug 8, 8, 12 <<<>>> Oct 4, 5, 6
One of the reports for 8 Aug above is of a bird banded at Boyer Chute NWR, Washington Co in 2004. Migration is from Aug through early Oct. Most sightings are undocumented with later reports of one banded but undescribed in Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 9 Oct 1992 (Morris 1993), and one with “completely yellow belly and tail coverts” at Wehrspann Lake, Sarpy Co 14 Oct 2012.
The westernmost fall records are of singles at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 26 Aug 2006 (Silcock 2006) and 3 Sep 2019 (Mlodinow, eBird.org).
Comments: There are a few reports for Jun and Jul which have been thought to indicate breeding, although this would be most unexpected. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were reported in summer from Lancaster and Sarpy Cos in the years 1978-1981, including three nest cards for Sarpy Co submitted in 1978 (Bennett 1980). No identification details were published, but field notes made by the observer were subsequently located and examined; although the sightings appear to have been of a yellowish Empidonax flycatcher, the details did not allow positive identification of the birds; nothing in the notes suggests anything other than a Willow Flycatcher (Mollhoff 2004). A female netted in Sarpy Co 1 Jun and seen again 5 Jun 1978 had a “large brood patch” thought to be “indicative of nesting in the area” (Green 1978; Williams 1978); it was probably a migrant.
One was reported in Omaha 16 Jun 1998, but it was singing a two-note song with the first note “wheezy” and the second clear (Ruth Phipps; personal communication), suggestive of an odd Willow Flycatcher; the report was not accepted by NOURC (Brogie 1999). One in Omaha 22 Oct 2015 that was confirmed by “outside experts” as this species from photographs, was, however, not accepted by NOURC based on the perceived lack of quality of the video and an inconclusive written report (Brogie 2016).
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SP: State Park
WSC: Wayne State College
Photograph (top) of a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Papillion, Sarpy Co 28 May 2017 by Phil Swanson.
Bennett, E.V. 1980. 1978 Nebraska nesting survey. NBR 48:39-43.
Bray, T.E. 1994. Habitat utilization by birds in a man-made forest in the Nebraska Sandhills. Master’s thesis, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Brogie, M.A. 1999. 1998 (Tenth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 67: 141-152.
Brogie, M.A. 2016. 2015 (27th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 84: 138-150.
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.
Green, R.C. 1978. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. NBR 46: 86.
Grzybowski, J.A. 1991. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 45: 1132-1134.
Gubanyi, J.G. 1996. 1995 (Seventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 64: 132-138.
Kent, T.H., and J.J. Dinsmore. 1996. Birds in Iowa. Publshed by the authors, Iowa City and Ames, Iowa, USA.
Mollhoff, W.J. 2004. The 2002 Nebraska Nesting Report. NBR 72: 153-158.
Morris, R. 1993. Fall 1992 Occurrence Report (July 1 – December 31). NBR 61: 31-87.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.
Silcock, W.R. 2001. Summer Field Report, June and July 2001. NBR 69: 106-132.
Silcock, W.R. 2006. Fall Field Report, August-November 2006. NBR 74: 110-128.
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.
Tout, W. 1947. Lincoln County birds. Published by the author, North Platte, Nebraska, USA.
Williams, F. 1978. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 32: 1178-1182.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2019. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org