Nutting's Flycatcher, Myiarchus nuttingi
Lake Patagonia State Park, Arizona
I arrived around 9:30 and spent about two hours searching the mesquite groves at the east end of the lake without success. I met several other birders including Betty Burridge and Michael Ruggles of Santa Rosa, California. As we walked into the trails toward the rock cairn which was placed at an area where the bird was often seen, Betty pointed out a flycatcher sitting quietly in the tops of the mesquite. I quickly determined it was the Nutting's, although light was rather poor and the bird was mostly facing away from me. I could see the strong white wing panel formed by the fringes to the secondaries which contrasted with rusty primaries and secondary bases. I could also see the relatively small bill and fairly bright yellow underparts, but I was unable to see the underside of the tail.
The bird then flew rapidly and low through the mesquite. I heard a low "weep" call from the general direction of the bird but was unable to find it. I heard the "weep" call a few more times, but the only bird I could find in the area was a Hermit Thrush. I called another birder, Brad Warrick from Flagstaff, and we searched without success for several more hours. Finally we met Bob. F. Lewis and another birder from New Jersey who pointed us to the area where they had recently seen and heard the bird near the first bend in the trail. Here we got better, but brief views and watched the bird give the "weep" call. This time I saw the underside of the tail, but was unable to see the pattern of rust as the bird was perched high against the sky. Unfortunately the bird got away from us again.
Still searching in mid-afternoon in the same general vicinity I met, Matt Chew of Arizona State Parks who was looking at the bird in some tall willows right at the edge of the lake. Here I finally got outstanding prolonged views through my scope in excellent light and was able to see the distinctive undertail pattern as well as other subtle details.
The following descriptions is based on notes made shortly after seeing the bird for the last time:
An obvious Miarchus looking somewhat intermediate between Ash-throated Flycatcher and Dusky-capped Flycatcher but with some important differences from either.
The bill was black, relatively small with a narrow pale base to the lower mandible.
The back was olive-brown with gray extending up the sides of the neck contrasting with the dark crest and face. A small pale-gray area appeared on the lores but otherwise the dark brown face contrasted with with the whitish throat which in turn contrasted with the the pale-gray breast. The rest of the underparts were bright yellow, brightest on the undertail coverts and the wing-linings.
The primary projection was quite short. Strong orange-rusty margins on the primaries and bases of the secondaries contrasted with the whitish wing-panel on the interior secondaries. When the bird spread its wing I noticed that the primary coverts were fringed rusty, not grayish like the rest of the wing-coverts and tertials.
At close range distinctive rusty fringes to the uppertail coverts could be seen. The tail was dusky or dark gray with pale rufous on the inner webs reaching the tips of the feathers at a point, diagnostic for this species.
The bird caught several insects while I watched it, although it appeared to ingest a berry from the mesquite at one point. The orange mouth lining was briefly seen on one occasion.
At no time did I see the reported Ash-throated Flycatchers in the area. Also the bird gave only typical Nutting's call-notes independently, not only during interactions with Ash-throats as had been reported earlier.
This appears to be about the third record of this Middle American species for the United States. Several other records are pending, but this appears to be the first which has been widely seen. A brief discussion by Steve Ganley of this record and other recent records may be found at http://www.birdware.com/lists/rba/_us/az/phoenix/B0001022478.MSG.htm.
An excellent discussion of identification illustrated with two good photos and voice recordings of this individual is at Roy Jones's site here.
Two photos by Gary Rosenberg and Barry Zimmer are at : photo#1
and two photos by Don Cecile are here: photo #1 and photo #2.
Jerry Oldenettle has posted a good photo of this bird at his site.
380 Talbot Avenue #206
Pacifica, CA 94044