Vermilion Flycatcher Photo © Stephen Pollard
CUBS Bird Guide

Vermilion Flycatcher

Regional Species

A spectacular and distinctive flycatcher, the bright red Vermilion Flycatcher inhabits riparian areas and scrub in the southwestern United States and southward. It perches conspicuously, making periodic flights to nab insect prey.


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Scrub, desert, cultivated lands, and riparian woodlands.

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Insects and other arthropods.

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The male Vermilion Flycatcher often seeks to initiate copulation by delivering a butterfly or other showy insect to the female. During breeding season, the male Vermilion Flycatcher performs a spectacular display, fluttering 10 to 30 meters (11-33 ft) above the canopy, singing. Sits and waits on an open perch, locates prey, and pursues it. Often takes prey on the wing, from ground level to a height of about 10 meters (33 ft).

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A loose cup of twigs, grasses, and fibers, lined with down, feathers, and hair. Usually placed in a fork in a horizontal tree branch, about 2.5 to 6 meters (8-20 ft) off the ground.


Typical Sound


© Bob McGuire | Macaulay Library

Adult Description

  • Small flycatcher.
  • Male has bright red or red-orange head and underparts.
  • Female is dull grayish brown above, with pale red under the tail and a streaked whitish chest.

Male Description

Crown, lower face, and underparts brilliant scarlet or vermilion. Upperparts, nape, and mask through the eye blackish brown. Wings and tail dark blackish brown. Outer tail feathers may be edged with white. Narrow white tip on tail.

Female Description

Upperparts grayish brown. Underparts white near throat, becoming pale salmon or orangish under the tail. Breast, sides, and flanks streaked with grayish brown. Dull white eyebrow stripe and gray line through eyes. Wings and tail dark grayish brown. Some may have a few pinkish red feathers on the crown or breast.

Immature Description

Juvenile with scaly grayish back, white underparts, white outer tail feathers, and dusky spotting across chest. Immature male resembles adult female, with more extensive reddish color under tail and on flanks and variable amounts of dull red mottling. Immature female is similar to adult female, but with yellow, not reddish, under the tail.

Plumage Photos

Similar Species

Did you know?!

  • The breeding male Vermilion Flycatcher spends about 90 percent of the day perched.
  • Twelve subspecies of Vermilion Flycatcher are recognized, including a race with a dark morph that ranges from western Peru to northern Chile. Both male and female of this morph are dark all over, with some males having a few red feathers on the head, and some females having a pinkish wash under the tail. About half of the Vermilion Flycatchers in Lima, Peru are the dark morph, but the proportion decreases as one goes further southward.