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Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Habitat

Characteristics and Examples

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher breeds in dense riparian habitats along rivers, streams, or other wetlands. The vegetation can be dominated by dense growths of willows (Salix sp.), seepwillow (Baccharis sp.), or other shrubs and medium-sized trees. There may be an overstory of cottonwood (Populus sp.), tamarisk (Tamarix sp.), or other large trees, but this is not always the case. In some areas, the flycatcher will nest in habitats dominated by tamarisk and Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia). One of the most important characteristics of the habitat appears to be the presence of dense vegetation, usually throughout all vegetation layers present.

Almost all Southwestern Willow Flycatcher breeding habitats are within close proximity (less than 20 yards) of water or very saturated soil. This water may be in the form of large rivers, smaller streams, springs, or marshes. At some sites, surface water is present early in the nesting season, but gradually dries up as the season progresses. Ultimately, the breeding site must have a water table high enough to support riparian vegetation.


Following are some photographs of a few known Southwestern Willow Flycatcher breeding areas. These examples are presented to show the wide diversity of sites where flycatchers have been found to breed. Not all breeding sites are included - new sites will be added as photographs become available.

Alpine, AZ, near the San Francisco River. Elevation approximately 8000 feet.

Roosevelt Lake, AZ, near the Salt River inflow. Elevation approximately 2000 feet.

Verde River, AZ.  Elevation approximately 4500 feet.

San Marcial, NM, along the Rio Grande. Elevation approximately 3000 feet.

Gila River, Lower Box, NM.  Elevation approximately 3900 feet.


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