Willow Flycatcher
(Empidonax traillii)


Picture of bird
© John Reaume
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Canadian breeding range of the Willow Flycatcher stretches from coastal British Columbia across to Nova Scotia, with centres of abundance in southern British Columbia and southern Ontario. The Willow Flycatcher was recognised as a separate species in 1973, when it was taxonomically separated from the Alder Flycatcher. In Canada, Breeding Bird Survey data indicate a 48% decrease in abundance of Willow Flycatchers since the early 1970s. There are conservation concerns on both the breeding and wintering grounds, as well as during migration. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada1,000,000 - 5,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early June and mid-June and ends in early August, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The Willow Flycatcher has been well studied due to its similarity to the Alder Flycatcher and resulting taxonomic complexity, and, more recently, because of the Endangered status of the southwestern subspecies extimus in the United States. An apparent decline on the wintering grounds in Mexico has been reported, perhaps a result of loss of rain-forest (Sedgwick 2000). Mortality rate during migration was found to be the highest of the species' annual cycle (i.e. migration, wintering, breeding, Giermakowski et al. 2016). Causes of declines on the breeding grounds are most likely related to habitat degradation and loss through alteration of habitat by cattle (e.g., soil compaction and grazing of willow; Sedgwick 2000) and through drainage or development of the moist habitats this species prefers.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Stewardship
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other