- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant; the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was uncommon during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
Widely distributed across Canada from Labrador to British Columbia to the tree limit, and in the United States restricted to the northern regions of the Upper Midwest and the northeastern New England states. Highest densities are found in Labrador, Nova Scotia, and northern Minnesota (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 9/20 by Partners in Flight.
Long-distance migrant; winters in southern Mexico and Central America.
Flying insects that are caught in the air and gleaned from foliage.
On the ground in moss, roots, or thick vegetation.
Roberts (1932) never reported a nest of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher but considered it a summer resident in northern portions of the state. The totality of his records indicated it was a fairly rare species. This may have been an indication of a lack of coverage in appropriate habitat and difficult identification, especially by observation. Roberts recorded the following observations, which he said, “show that it is a summer resident in northern Minnesota”: Aitkin County (female in breeding condition in June 1897), Itasca State Park (behavior on July 9, 1917, indicated a nest or young nearby), Lake County (1 collected on July 15, 1914), eastern Marshall County (brood of young being fed by adults on July 10, 1900), and St. Louis County (1 collected on June 14, 1894).
Roberts (1932) summarized its distribution as follows: “The records for the northern part of the state are not numerous but show that it is widely distributed during the breeding-season from the eastern border of the Red River Valley to Lake Superior, as far south as Itasca Park and Aitkin County.” He also dismissed a statement by Hatch (1892) that this species spends the summer in the vicinity of Minneapolis.
In 1975, Green and Janssen described a breeding distribution that was similar to what Roberts (1932) reported. Their boundaries included northeastern and north-central Minnesota as far south as Bruno in Pine County, southern Aitkin County, and west to Clearwater and Marshall Counties. They cited confirmed breeding records only from northern Lake County. Janssen (1987) restated the distribution described in Green and Janssen (1975) and emphasized that the species was “best represented in northern Cook, Lake, St. Louis, Lake of the Woods, Koochiching, and Itasca Counties.” Janssen (1987) and Hertzel and Janssen (1998) both included 3 confirmed nesting records from Aitkin, Cook, and Koochiching Counties since 1970.
The Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) thus far has recorded 635 breeding season locations during intensive county surveys. Locations were widely spread across northern Minnesota; the vast majority were distributed from southern Beltrami County to Cook County. The spatial extent of their locations ranges south to Mille Lacs, northern Morrison, and Pine Counties, west to eastern Becker County, and northwest to Marshall, Pennington, and Roseau Counties. Note that the MBS has not yet completed surveys in northern Beltrami, Koochiching, or Lake of the Woods Counties.
The MNBBA provided a solid snapshot of the current breeding distribution with 889 records of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Figure 2). The species was recorded in 9.4% (444/4,735) of all surveyed blocks and in 9.6% (225/2,337) of priority blocks (Figure 3; Table 1). Nesting was confirmed from 5 counties: Beltrami, Cass, Itasca, Lake, and St. Louis. In addition, probable breeding was identified in another 8 counties: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Hubbard, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Pine, and Roseau. Possible nesting extended south to Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties and west to Clearwater and eastern Marshall Counties.
The breeding distribution is slightly larger than what had been previously described, extending southward to Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties. Many recent studies, especially in the lowland and upland coniferous forests of northern Minnesota, have indicated relatively high populations of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in the Agassiz Lowlands Subsection and in northeastern Minnesota (e.g., Niemi and Hanowski 1984; Warner and Wells 1984; Niemi et al. 2016; Bednar et al. 2016; and Zlonis et al. 2017).
The probability map for the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher predicts the primary distribution in the northeastern and north-central regions of the state (Figure 4). Highest densities are predicted in the Red Lake Peatland north of Upper Red Lake and a broad region from southwestern St. Louis County to northeastern Lake and Cook Counties.
Gross and Lowther (2011) suggested that the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher distribution has remained relatively stable in North America since the early 20th century. They commented on the loss of breeding habitat in the southern fringes of the species’ range in Canada and from southern Wisconsin. These changes have largely been due to logging, drainage of bogs, and agricultural development. Kumlien and Hollister (1951) stated that “Thure Kumlien took a nest with four eggs in the Bark River woods, Jefferson County, June 7, 1860 and two nests at a later date in 1863 and 1864.” Jefferson County is in the second tier of counties in southeastern Wisconsin. Interestingly, Kumlien and Hollister also stated that this species was “not as rare in Wisconsin as early writers have made us believe.”
Roberts (1932) stated that the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was not found south of Aitkin County during the breeding season, and his documents indicate that he and others spent considerable time in the area of Mille Lacs and Pine Counties. Limited suitable habitat likely occurred south of these regions in Minnesota. However, Cadman et al. (2007) in Ontario questioned whether “atlasers’ increased familiarity with the songs and calls of the species” contributed to finding the species more widespread during their second breeding bird atlas. It remains unknown if vocal identification issues confounded observations during the early years of settlement in southern and central Minnesota.
*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.