Animals

Bird of the Week: Spotted Flycatcher

An aerobatic hunter, this bird is seen at its best when stalking its favoured prey.Tuesday, 4 June 2019

By Jamie Wyver
The loss of nesting habitat for the spotted flycatcher has reduced numbers dramatically in the last 40 years. This flycatcher has caught food for young in a nearby nest.

To watch a spotted flycatcher hunting is a great delight. This pretty brown bird with a pale streaked breast and dark eye first selects a perch, usually a twig or branch sticking out into a woodland glade. Then when it spots a juicy looking insect it darts out into the air, twisting, fluttering and snatching at its prey before returning to its vantage point.

If the flycatcher grabs a stinging insect, like a wasp, it will thrash this against its perch to remove the sting before swallowing. On rainy days there aren’t many insects on the wing, so the bird forages in trees instead, picking the creatures from leaves. 

Spotted flycatcher is named – naturally – for its preferred prey, but this prey can range from tiny flies to stinging insects such as wasps.

Spotted flycatchers are summer visitors to the UK, arriving from Africa early in May before nesting in woods, churchyards, parks or gardens where there are plenty of trees. They’ll raise two sets of chicks before flying south again in August.

In the UK, numbers of spotted flycatchers dropped by 85% between 1970 and 2015. It’s likely that loss of suitable nesting sites and lower numbers of insects for the birds to eat will be having a serious effect. You can help spotted flycatchers and other insect-eating birds by helping invertebrates in your garden - planting a mini wildflower meadow for example. You can also provide nesting spaces: a climbing plant or an open-fronted nestbox would be ideal.

Find out more about giving nature a home here

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