Photo credit: Dan Lory

If a Willow Flycatcher doesn't sing, is it still a Willow Flycatcher?

Well, of course it is, but I won't know that. There are about a dozen different types of flycatchers that are common in the Chicago area, and some of them are so similar in appearance that the surest way to tell them apart is by their song. The Willow Flycatcher in particular has several very close look-alikes, so when it comes to "spotting" a Willow Flycatcher, it's probably more accurate to say you heard one than to say you saw one. Hearing is believing.

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A cool thing about flycatchers is that they do not learn their song from their parents. They know their song innately, from the moment they hatch. It makes sense. Even baby Willow Flycatchers probably can't tell the difference between similar species, so they wouldn't know whom to imitate. Hatching with their song pre-wired takes care of that. Mother Nature thinks of everything!

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Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.