European Pied Flycatcher Facts: The Male Doesn’t Care Much about His Mistress

Hidden within the enchanting forests of Europe, a tiny avian gem reigns supreme, captivating both birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Meet the European pied flycatcher, a songbird with interesting mobbing behavior. Let’s dive into these pied flycatcher facts to see their remarkable life cycle.

European pied flycatcher
Scientific name: Ficedula hypoleuca
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Genus: Ficedula

1. They have contrasted plumage

The European pied flycatcher is a member of the Old World flycatcher. Their appearance is characterized by a clear contrast between their upper and lower body. Their backs are adorned with darker shades, while their undersides feature lighter tones. These flycatchers have distinctive white bars on the dorsal sides of their wings.

These birds exhibit sexual dimorphism, which means you can tell the difference between males and females based on their looks. The males display a striking appearance with black plumage and white patches on their throats, belly, and wings. Their black feathers reflect ultraviolet light. There is a small white patch on their forehead.

The male pied flycatcher is more vibrant

The attractiveness of males to females is directly linked to the size of this patch. Additionally, the size of the patch can indicate the male’s immune competence. The larger the patch is, the fewer trypanosome infections they get.

Females, on the other hand, have a less vibrant appearance. They have a brown back and head and a creamy white belly which is adorned with streaks of buff.

The female comes in brown color

Unlike male pied flycatchers, females lack the forehead patch. Nevertheless, females of certain populations in the southern regions may have this feature. In contrast to the males, the patch indicates the process of aging, not the good health.

In terms of size, European pied flycatchers are slightly smaller than house sparrows. There is no size difference between females and males. They typically have a size of about 5.1 in (13 cm) in length and a wingspan of 8.3 to 9.4 in (21 cm to 24 cm).

2. They eat various types of food

Pied flycatchers eat various food, with a primary focus on consuming flying insects like flies, dragonflies, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, and mayflies. They also forage on the ground, leaves, and tree trunks to look for different invertebrates. These include millipedes, beetles, cockroaches, snails, earwigs, woodlice, spiders, grasshoppers, ants, and caterpillars.

Spiritual meaning: Fearless exploration, taking risks, pursuing dreams without hesitation.

As the autumn season sets in, they adapt their feeding habits and incorporate fruit and berries into their diet. They particularly enjoy consuming currants, elderberries, and figs during this time.

In highly polluted areas, these birds tend to consume a higher number of larvae and a lower number of spiders and moths compared to those living in less polluted regions.

To hunt prey, they employ a technique called sallying. They strategically position themselves on preferred perches among tree branches and swiftly dart toward passing prey.

What’s more interesting is that these flycatchers are fooled by the eyespots found on butterfly wings, such as peacock butterflies. There’s no difference between the butterflies with and without eyespot patterns.

3. They mob to defend predators

Pied flycatchers have quite a few predators. Their nests can be raided by martens, stoats, and least weasels, while Eurasian sparrowhawks, goshawks, and tawny owls pose a danger to both the young and adults.

To protect themselves, these little birds came up with a defensive tactic known as mobbing behavior. Whenever a bird detects an intruder, it emits a harsh ‘whit’ or ‘tik’ sound, signaling nearby birds to come together and collectively address the impending danger.

The European pied flycatcher is flying

After hearing the SOS call, nearby birds have the choice to participate or abstain based on perceived risks. As the law of karma, birds that choose not to join the mobbing effort are less likely to receive assistance from others if their own nests are attacked.

The pie flycatcher birds that choose to join will gather and vigorously attack the predator through divebombing and creating a loud commotion until the intruder retreats. While this strategy works well for larger groups with numerous potential participants, it poses greater risks for birds residing in sparsely populated areas.

Some cunning predators, like martens, can acquire the mobbing call and exploit it by targeting bird nests while the birds are preoccupied with defending against the initial intruder.

4. Habitat

Their primary habitats are woodlands and forests, particularly well-established deciduous woodlands, gardens, orchards, and parks. During migration, they may also venture into areas with dense shrubbery.

In these habitats, they often come into contact with collared flycatchers, a closely related species that favor deciduous trees and lower altitudes. This leads to the hybrid reproduction between them, despite their habitat differences.

The melodic tune of a European pied flycatcher comprises a sequence of up to 15 notes, each with distinct pitches. It may be accompanied by a succession of shrill whistles, either preceding or following the song.

5. They are migratory birds

Pied flycatchers are migratory species, they don’t have year-round territories. They engage in breeding activities throughout Europe, displaying a wide distribution. They establish breeding populations in the western, northern, and central parts of the continent. Notable countries such as Norway, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia Sweden, and Latvia host significant numbers of breeding pairs.

Once the young European pied flycatchers leave their nests, they embark on an exploration of their birth territory and develop a strong attachment to it. In the next spring, they generally come back to the same place.

When the winter comes (end of October), they migrate to Africa, primarily choosing their wintering sites in Senegal and the Gambia. They’re also found as far east as the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Female birds often go farther from their birthplace in comparison to males. They often select places situated approximately 6.5 kilometers away from their original nest. Certain studies have documented instances of birds venturing as far as an average of 14.3 kilometers.

Cre: on pic

These birds are diurnal creatures, primarily active during the day. However, their migratory flights typically occur during the nighttime hours. To know exactly where to fly, they rely on the Earth’s magnetic field and the patterns of constellations in the sky. Each night, they can move for about 100 to 125 kilometers. These flights follow a distinct trajectory, a narrow parabolic shape.

6. They’re both monogamous and polygynous

Pied flycatchers display a combination of monogamy and polygyny in their mating behavior. It is more common for older males to engage in polygamous relationships. In polygynous relationships, males typically establish distinct territories for each partner. However, both females can occasionally live in the same territory or even share the same nest.

This polygynous system may come with a price. The main female will get more love and resources from the males. In some cases, the secondary female can be abandoned completely. On the other hand, males in such systems are more prone to having unhatched eggs and are at a higher risk of being deceived by one or both of their mates. This results in the expenditure of energy to raise offspring that are not genetically theirs.

These avian species exhibit a nesting habit known as cavity nesting, wherein they utilize holes found in fully-grown trees and nest boxes. The male birds typically arrive at their breeding territories ahead of the females and diligently search for suitable places. Once they locate appropriate cavities, the males fiercely defend them until the females arrive and select their mate. Male flycatchers woo females with their plumage, their songs, and intricate displays.

The female makes a nest near the entrance of the hollow, using a variety of materials such as moss, leaves, fur, stems, grasses, and occasionally feathers. She will lay one clutch consisting of 6 – 7 blue-green eggs. She can have a second brood in the season if the first one fails. Interestingly, when two females choose to nest together, the egg numbers can increase the clutch size of females, but not much. Some females can reject their eggs.

The females solely incubate their eggs for about 13 – 15 days. Both parents take part in feeding the hatchlings, providing them with larvae, and small insects. However, the male will dedicate extra time to caring for recently hatched offspring that emerge from vividly colored eggs. The young are continued to be fed for a week following their first flight which happens 16 to 17 days after hatching.

These juveniles European pied flycatchers exhibit a coloration similar to that of the females. As they reach their first summer, the males undergo a transformation and acquire their full adult plumage. However, young adult males may still retain a slight brownish tint during their first year.

These birds can still reproduce until they reach the age of 6. The longest recorded reproduction age is 10 years and 11 months, a bird in Finland. Their typical lifespan is about 2 years. However, some individuals can live up to 9 years.

The bird is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List. There are at least 8 million breeding pairs in the world.



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