Great Crested Flycatcher
Owl Canyon, Bodega Bay, Sonoma County
Friday, 5 October 2001
Joseph Morlan

Photo © 2001 by Dan Nelson. All rights reserved.
Today Robbie Fischer and I decided to call the Northern California BirdBox after a successful morning at Point Reyes. Thus we learned that a Great Crested Flycatcher had been found this morning at the Owl Canyon in Bodega Bay and was still being seen. We decided to drive up to look for the bird. Eventually I located the Great Crested Flycatcher in the middle area of the canyon and got good looks in good light for over an hour. Later the bird moved down to the mouth of the canyon. Other birders included Dan Nelson, Jon Winter, Ruth Rudesill, Alan Wight, and Kevin McKereghan. Dan Nelson saw the bird earlier and got photos.

The following description is based on notes made while watching the bird:

A decidedly large Myiarchus flycatcher with a bright yellow belly and lots of red in the tail.

The face was gray, with a slightly paler gray area around the dark eye forming an indistinct, somewhat diffused eye-ring. The crown formed a flattish brown crest with a peach-colored patch in the center of the crown, visible when the bird was at close range and in good light. The bill was black, fairly thick, and not particularly long compared to similar species. At close range, a small, dull pinkish area could be seen at the very base of the lower mandible, but this area was much less distinct and less extensive than expected based on my previous experience with adults in summer in the East. However it was consistent with the presumed immature I saw at the Carmel River in 1999 which also lacked obvious pale to the mandible. When the bill opened, the mouth lining appeared bright pink.

The throat was pale gray blending with a darker gray chest which contrasted with bright lemon-yellow on the, breast, belly and the rest of the underparts. The yellow seemed to extend further up onto the breast than on Ash-throated Flycatcher. Where the gray met the yellow on the sides of the breast, the colors blended slightly producing a greenish cast.

The wings were dark with two obvious white wing-bars formed by the white tips to the greater and median coverts. A gap was evident between each feather producing a saw-toothed effect on both wing-bars. The tertials were fringed boldly with gleaming-white on the outer webs, and the the innermost tertial on each side appeared solidly white on the entire outer web producing a wedge-shaped white triangle, evident when the bird was perched facing away from us. The primaries were strongly edged with rusty forming a rusty panel on the folded wing. The secondaries appeared to me to be edged with grayish, mixed slightly with pale yellow. Kevin McKereghan described this color as "lemon sorbet."

The tail was strikingly rusty below and when spread in flight appeared rusty above as well. From below it was surprisingly easy to see that the the reddish color extended all the way to the tip of each feather on the inner web. However, from the side, the tip of the tail seemed slightly darker as a consequence of overlapping feathers. From above, the central tail feathers appeared brownish.

The back was a warm brownish color with a decided olive-green cast.

Dan Nelson said the bird called about 30 time earlier in the day, and it called again about 12 times after we left. Unfortunately we did not hear the bird call.

This is the first record of Great Crested Flycatcher for Sonoma County.