Bird of the Week: Spotted Flycatcher

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

Published 4 Jun 2019, 10:08 BST
The loss of nesting habitat for the spotted flycatcher has reduced numbers dramatically in the last ...
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.
Photograph by Ben Andrew

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.
Photograph by Andy Hay

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

Read More

You might also like

Bird of the Week: Turtle Dove
Bird of the Week: Song Thrush
Bird of the Week: Black Tailed Godwit
Bird of the Week: white-tailed eagle
Discover the surprising gluttons of the animal world

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved