Acadian flycatcher
Empidonax virescens
ITIS Species Code:   178339         NatureServ Element Code:   ABPAE33020
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  25 Southern Piedmont:  21 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  21
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

11.0 %
48.3 %
5.7 %
10.7 %
5.9 %
1.4 %
9.8 %
1.2 %
1.1 %
3.7 %
3.7 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %

42.2 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

1.2 %
5.4 %
0.7 %
1.2 %
0.7 %
0.2 %
1.1 %
0.1 %
0.1 %
0.1 %
0.4 %
< 0.1 %
88.8 %

4.7 %
Occurs throughout North Carolina except in the mountains above 4,000 ft. (Hamel 1992, Potter et al 1980).

Will breed in dry habitats, although favors wet deciduous forests, such as swamps, riverside woods, floodplain forest, and streamside woods (Fussell 1994, Hamel 1992, Kaufman 1996, Potter et al 1980, Simpson 1992). Also prefers forests with a moderate understory (Hamel 1992).

Nest is usually in a deciduous tree or shrub and averages 13 ft. above ground (Kaufman 1996). If in a tree, the nest is generally in lower branches and far out on the limb from the trunk (Harrison 1975). The hammock-like nest is placed between two horizontal branches or on a fork in the limb (Ehrlich et al 1988, Kaufman 1996, Potter et al 1980). Construction materials used for the nest include plant stems and fibers, tendrils, catkins, and lined with grass, rootlets, plant down, and spider webs (Harrison 1975). Potter et al (1975) describes the Acadian FlycatcherĂs nest near the coastal section as constructed of Spanish moss, in the mountains made up of mostly lichen or hemlock twigs, and formed of fine grasses and rootlets everywhere else in the state. This flycatcher forages from a perch in the middle level of the forest, mainly hawking insects, although will glean from foliage and twigs as well (Kaufman 1996).


BREEDING: Key habitat requirements are moist deciduous forests with a moderate understory, generally near a stream (Hamel et al. 1982). Humid deciduous forest (primarily mature), woodland, shaded ravines, floodplain forest, river swamps, hammocks and cypress bays of south, thickets, second growth, plantations. Requires a high dense canopy and an open understory (Bushman and Therres 1988). Tends to be scarce or absent in small forest tracts, unless the tract is near a larger forested area (see Bushman and Therres 1988). Floodplain forests must be more than 400-500 feet wide before they become suitable for nesting (Peterjohn and Rice 1991).

Nests in tree in horizontal twig fork toward end of lower branch, often over water, ravine, or other clearing, usually at a height of about 2-9 m. Usually nests on a lower branch, far out from trunk; usually shaded by leafy branches. Average nest characteristics have been measured by D. R. Whitehead and G. M. Greenberg (pers. comms.) for forest interior sites in Indiana: dbh of nest tree - 12.46 cm; nest height - 5.67 m; nest tree height - 14.96 m; distance from bole - 4.37 m; distance to watercourse - 20.74 m; and slope - 18.80 degrees. Bent (1942) describes it as a bird of the forest: it is found in cypress swamps, in heavily wooded bottomlands, and in the depths of wooded ravines. Of Wisconsin, Bent (1942) writes 'The essential requirement of the Acadian Flycatcher appears to be a large tract of undisturbed timber. The typical habitat is a deep, well-wooded ravine having a rocky stream bed, which is usually dry. It may also be looked for in the heavy timber of the river bottoms and in tamarack swamps in the southern portion of the state.' Conner and Adkisson (1975) found it in mature forest with a basal area of 90 ft squared/acre (21 m squared/ha) (Bushman and Therres 1988).

Vegetation types for the southeastern U.S. from Hanel et al. (1982), in order of suitability, are: oak-gum-cypress and elm-ash-cottonwood are listed as optimal habitat at both the sapling-poletimber, and sawtimber stages; cove hardwoods are listed as suitable at the sapling-poletimber stage and optimal at the sawtimber stage; southern mixed mesic hardwoods are listed as only marginal at the sapling-poletimber stage and optimal at the sawtimber stage; bay swamp-pocosin, oak-hickory, and white pine-hemlock are all listed as only marginal at the sapling-poletimber stage and suitable at the sawtimber stage; mixed pine-hardwood is listed as only marginal at both the sapling-poletimber and sawtimber stages. In all cases, midstory and overstory canopy are used for all activities (feeding/foraging, nesting, perching, roosting, and singing) and dead trees or limbs are used for feeding/foraging and singing. Requires snags for foraging with a minimum dbh of 6 in (15 cm) and exposed perches in the midstory (Hamel et al. 1982). D. R. Whitehead and G. M. Greenberg (pers. comms.) have observed foraging on all types of trees, but usually not snags because they sometimes pick insects off leaves. Data on habitat selection are also given by Hespenheide (1971); where Acadian Flycatchers overlap with Least Flycatchers (EMPIDONAX MINIMUS), the preferred habitat of Acadians has apparently changed in accordance with predictions of competitive effect based on overlap data alone.

MIGRATION: Open scrub and young second growth to primary and secondary forest.

NON-BREEDING: Little is known about this species' wintering habitat. Prefers thickets and gaps in forest understory and edge (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Common resident in understory of humid forest and second growth or cut-over woodland in Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986). Recorded exclusively in forest in Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica (Hagan and Johnston 1992). Blake and Loiselle (1992) found them to be most common in old (30-35 year) second-growth forest habitats in Costa Rica. Here, small to medium sized trees (< 25 cm dbh) were most common, as were small vines and lianas; canopy was measured as being 13% open. Also common in young (approximately 5 yr post-abandonment pasture in 1985) second- growth forest habitats; here, the canopy was 26% open and shrubs were the dominant vegetation type. Few were found in primary forest (Blake and Loiselle 1992).

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
15 Seepage and Streamhead Swamps Includes extensive peat flats in the coastal plain, dominated by swamp tupelo, maples, and Atlantic white cedar alliances. In the sandhills includes streamhead pond pine and bay forests alliances. Saturated hydrology. Bay Forest, Small Depression Pocosin, Streamhead Atlantic White Cedar Forest, Streamhead Pocosins
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
138 Coastal Plain Dry to Dry-Mesic Oak Forests Oak dominated forests of the coastal plain. Includes white oak forests with water oak or northern red oak and hickories as co-dominants. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
230 Piedmont Mesic Forest American Beech - Red Oak - White Oak Forests. Mesic Mixed Hardwood
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
383 Piedmont Mixed Successional Forest Generally loblolly mixed with successional hardwoods. Sweetgum, tulip poplar and red maple are common co-dominants in these successional forests. No equivalent
228 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Oak and Hardwood Forests Primarily oak dominated forests, white oak is often dominant, with co-dominants including . Also represented by sweetgum and tulip poplar dominated forests. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
382 Dry Mesic Oak Pine Forests Mixed forests of the coastal plain and piedmont. Includes loblolly pine with white, southern red and/or post oak and loblolly with water oak. On basic sites of the piedmont, eastern red cedar may co-occur with post, black, and blackjack oaks. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Xeric Hard Pan Forest, Chestnut Oak Forest, Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
51 Deciduous Cultivated Plantation Planted deciduous trees. Includes sweetgum and sycamore plantations. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
517 Hemlock Floodplain Forest Alluvial forest with hemlock and/or white pine in mountains and western piedmont. Hydrology is generally temporarily to seasonally flooded. Canada Hemlock Forest
522 Northern Hardwoods High Elevation forests including yellow birch, American beech, and yellow buckeye. Includes forests with Hemlock and Yellow Birch. Northern Hardwoods Forest, Boulderfield Forest
525 Appalachian Oak Forest A variety of oak forest types including Black, White, Scarlet Oaks in dry to mesic situations. Includes forests historically co-dominated by American Chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
526 Appalachian Cove Forest Mixed Mesophytic forests of the mountains. Includes tuliptree, basswood, yellow buckeye and surgar maple. This class is mapped to include cove forests dominated or co-dominated by hemlock. Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
533 Appalachian Swamp Forest Evergreen and deciduous forests with saturated hydrologies. This class may contain a variety of trees species, including hemlock - red maple, pitch pine, and white pine forests. Swamp Forest-Bog Complex, Southern Appalachian Bog, Southern Appalachian Fen
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude all land greater than 200 meters from an open water feature.
Exclude all land greater than 200 meters from wet vegetation.
Exclude brackish and salt water habitats.
Limited to elevation range: less than 4000 ft.
Bent, A.C. 1942. Life histories of North American flycatchers, larks, swallows, and their allies. U.S. National Museum Bulletin 179. Washington, DC.

Peterjohn, B.G., and D.L. Rice. 1991. Ohio breeding bird atlas. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Columbus, Ohio. 416 pp.

Hagan, J.M., III, and D.W. Johnston, editors. 1992. Ecology and conservation of neotropical migrant landbirds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. xiii + 609 pp.

Hamel, P. B. 1992. The land manager's guide to the birds of the south. The Nature Conservancy, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 367 pp + several appendices.

Simpson MB Jr. 1992. Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Conner, R. N., and C. S. Adkisson. 1975. Effects of clearcutting on the diversity of breeding birds. Journal of Forestry 73:781-5.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderĺs guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Mumford, R. E. 1964. The breeding biology of the Acadian flycatcher. Univ. Michigan Mus. Zool. Misc. Publ. No. 175. 50 pp.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Hamel, P. B., H. E. LeGrand Jr., M. R. Lennartz, and S. A. Gauthreaux, Jr. 1982. Bird-habitat relationships on southeastern forest lands. U. S. Dep. Agric., For. Serv. Southeast. For. Exp. Sta. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-22, Asheville, N. C. 417 p.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Hilty, S.L., and W.L. Brown. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 836 pp.

Bushman, E.S., and G.D. Therres. 1988. Habitat management guidelines for forest interior breeding birds of coastal Maryland. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Tech. Publ. 88-1. 50 pp.

Peterjohn, B.G. 1989. The birds of Ohio. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.

Stiles, F.G., and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publ. Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 511 pp.

Hespenheide, H. A. 1971. Flycatcher habitat selection in the eastern deciduous forest. The Auk 88:61-74.

Blake, J.G., and B. Loiselle. 1992. Habitat use by neotropical migrants at La Selva Biological Station and Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica. Pages 257-72 in J.M. Hagan III and D.W. Johnston (editors). Ecology and Conservation of Neotropical Migr

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853