- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding species and migrant. The Olive-sided Flycatcher was an uncommon species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
The Olive-sided Flycatcher ranges from Alaska across boreal Canada, south along the temperate coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains, and east across the Great Lakes and New England. Sparsely distributed throughout its range, some of its highest breeding densities are found along the Pacific Coast (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 13/20 by Partners in Flight and designated a Yellow Watch List species; designated a Species in Greatest Conservation Need by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
A long-distance, Neotropical migrant that winters in Central America and northern South America.
An aerial insectivore that sallies from high perches to feed on flying insects.
An open-cup nest placed in the tree canopy, usually on a horizontal branch away from the tree trunk; coniferous trees are preferred but deciduous trees are occasionally used.
Roberts (1932) described the Olive-sided Flycatcher as a “common summer resident throughout the evergreen forests, where it breeds as far south as northern Isanti and Pine counties and as far west as Itasca Park and eastern Marshall County.” Nevertheless, confirmed breeding records (nests with eggs or flighless young) were only available from Cass and Itasca Counties and an inferred nesting record (nest just completed) from Cook County. A nesting record from Isanti County is also included from June 13, 1927, but the text only mentions the observation of an adult bird; there is no mention of a nest.
Robert’s brief account of this flycatcher is devoted largely to a description of the bird’s characteristic “song.” Field ornithologists in the early 1900s variously described its mnemonics as come-right-here, put-take-care, or quip-peer-peer, but nowadays quick-three-beers is the most beloved rendition in its North Country haunts.
By 1975, Green and Janssen’s updated account of the species described its breeding range as “the northeastern and north central regions as far west as Kittson County and Mary Point Lake, Becker County, and as far south as Sturgeon Lake, Pine County.” Because the Olive-sided Flycatcher is a late migrant that often lingers in southern Minnesota through early June, the authors discounted Roberts’s 1927 record in Isanti County, classifying this record as a late spring migrant rather than of a summer resident (Green and Janssen 1975). In addition to Robert’s nesting records from Itasca, Cass, and Cook Counties, they added an inferred nesting record from Carlton County. A few years later, Janssen (1987) delineated three counties where nesting had been confirmed since 1970: Aitkin, Clearwater, and Cook. In their publication of updated county nesting records, Hertzel and Janssen (1998) deleted the Clearwater County record.
Although work had yet to be completed in the far north-central counties of Minnesota, which provides prime habitat for the Olive-sided Flycatcher, records collected by the Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) by 2014 documented a similar distribution to that delineated by earlier accounts. Breeding season observations were documented as far south as northern Pine County in the east and northern Wadena County in the west (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
During the MNBBA, observers reported a total of 217 Olive-sided Flycatcher records from 3.5% (168/4,736) of the surveyed atlas blocks and from 3.9% (90/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding was confirmed only in one block (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). Olive-sided Flycatchers were observed in 18 of Minnesota’s 87 counties and were confirmed breeding in Lake of the Woods County, a new county nesting record since the early 1900s. With the exception of two records discussed below, all atlas records were located within the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands and Laurentian Mixed Forest Ecological Provinces.
Two atlas records occurred south of the region traditionally recognized as the flycatcher’s breeding distribution in Minnesota, specifically records in Todd and Sherburne Counties. These records were examined closely before including them in the final Minnesota atlas map. As noted earlier, the Olive-sided Flycatcher migrates very late in the spring, often passing through southern Minnesota the first week of June or later. This late migration prompted atlas staff and technical advisors to carefully review all reports from central regions of the state. Several June records south of Lake Mille Lacs were invalidated as likely late migrants. The 2012 “probable” record from Todd County was retained because of two valid probable observations in the same block and in the same general location in 2013—one in early July and one in early August. Close examination of satellite images of the site also suggested that it provided ideal habitat for the flycatcher. A confirmed nesting record from the same block in 2010 was downgraded to “possible” because it represented a significant range extension and because supporting documentation was not submitted. Nevertheless, together the three records strongly suggest that the block is suitable for nesting for the Olive-sided Flycatcher.
The second record south of Lake Mille Lacs was in Sherburne County in 2011. There were multiple “possible” observations of the species in this block over a three-year period, ranging from mid to late June and each by skilled observers; four of the five records were from the MBS. The entire block is located within the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and also appears to provide suitable habitat.
The predicted distribution map combines the MNBBA data with data on climate, habitat availability, landscape context, and species detectability to produce a model that predicts the likelihood of encountering the species statewide (Figure 4). Like several other wetland-associated species, the extensive wetlands north of Red Lake are predicted to support some of the highest breeding densities, as are some of the extensive peatlands in southern St. Louis County. Although this map does not preclude the validity of the atlas records in Todd and Sherburne Counties, it does suggest that records in central Minnesota require careful documentation.
Overall, it appears the Olive-sided Flycatcher’s current breeding distribution in Minnesota is remarkably similar to that originally described by Roberts nearly one hundred years ago. Elsewhere in its range, the species is still reported in small areas within the southern Appalachian Mountains but is largely extirpated from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Range contractions also have occurred in New England and Nova Scotia. By contrast, populations appear to have expanded in other regions of Canada’s Maritime Provinces and in northern California (Altman and Sallabanks 2012). More recently, Michigan and Ontario reported declining numbers of birds but similar distributional ranges between atlases conducted in the 1980s and again in the first decade of the twenty-first century (Cadman et al. 2007; Chartier et al. 2013).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.