Text and photo by Peter Vankevich
This handsome large flycatcher, which is more often heard than seen, has brownish upperparts, gray breast, yellow belly and rufous tail. Both sexes look alike. In spite of its name, this bird has a rather inconspicuous crest, which is rarely displayed. It forages amongst the leaves in the canopy of trees, primarily eating caterpillars and other insects, and sometimes swooping after them. It also eats berries. It can often be seen perched on a tree limb or wire. This bird is the only flycatcher in North America that is a cavity nester, so it relies on holes in dead trees for nesting, including naturally occurring hollows in live trees created by branch scars and knotholes, cavities in dead trees excavated by woodpeckers, and a variety of human-made structures. Competition for nesting site on Ocracoke comes from aggressive European Starlings, which are common year-round on the island.
Great Crested Flycatchers appear to have benefited from the fragmentation of deciduous forest and subsequent increase in small woodlots and woodland edges. Their primary wintering grounds are to southern Mexico, Central America, and northwestern South America, but some will spend the winter in southern Florida and Cuba.
(Audio provided courtesy of OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons)
Best Time to see on Ocracoke: Arrives in mid-April and stays until late summer. It is more visible in early spring during courtship. After nesting, it is more secretive and less vocal.
Where: This is a specialty bird of the village, beginning in late April, when you can hear its loud, rising Whee—eep! call.