Species Profile

Acadian Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax virescens
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2010
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: In Canada, this species is restricted to certain types of mature forest in southern Ontario. Only small numbers breed in Canada. Although the population appears to have been relatively stable over the past 10-20 years, this is most likely due to immigration from U.S. populations. The species is threatened by forestry practices, particularly those that target removal of large trees. Serious conservation concerns, both in Canada and the adjacent U.S. also stem from increasingly widespread losses of a variety of favoured nest tree species owing to the spread of an array of invasive forest insects and pathogens. Collectively, these threats to habitat greatly reduce potential for rescue from adjacent U.S. populations.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1994. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2000 and April 2010.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher Photo 1

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Description

The Acadian flycatcher is an olive-green songbird with a long and slightly forked tail, white wing bars, and a yellowish belly. In size, it is slightly larger than a house sparrow, and in appearance it is similar to other flycatchers of the genus Empidonax. A unique two-note song described as "ka-zeep", and its location in its preferred habitat, are two features that help to identify this species.

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Distribution and Population

The Acadian flycatcher breeds only in North America, primarily in the eastern half of the United States where the species is widespread and common. It winters in Central America and northern South America from Nicaragua to Ecuador and Venezuela. In Canada, the Acadian flycatcher occurs in very low numbers in the Carolinian area of southern Ontario. The species is thought to have been more widespread and numerous in Canada prior to the clearing of forests in the early 1800s. Today, there is relatively little habitat remaining that is suitable for the species. In the 1980s, it was estimated that 41-75 pairs occurred in Canada and surveys revealed only 38 birds in 1992. Surveys carried out in 1997 found 34 singing males and yielded an estimate of fewer than 50 pairs. The 1998 data suggest that there are still between 35 and 50 pairs in Canada. The most recent population estimate counted 20 to 30 pairs of birds. Though recent field work has led to the discovery of a new breeding area and a few additional sites, the population is still at a low level and shows no signs of increasing in Canada.

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Habitat

The Acadian flycatcher requires large areas of mature undisturbed forest. Most individuals occur in forests more than 40 hectares in size. The species is also considered to be a forest interior species, meaning that it avoids forest edges and build their nests in areas that are more than 100 meters from the forest edge. The bird lives in the understory of woods with a closed canopy. It is often found in well-wooded swamps and ravines. Acadian flycatchers also occupy dry woods but they usually prefer to hang their nests over water. Prior to the 1800’s, the Carolinian area of Ontario would have had abundant suitable habitat for this species. Currently, very little of the forest remains and the remnants are highly fragmented. Throughout the Carolinian Forest region of Ontario, most of the remaining forest patches are very small (less than three hectares) and only an extremely small percentage of them is large enough to meet the species’ requirements.

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Biology

The bird reaches maturity at one year and has a lifespan of up to 10 years. Males attract females with their unique song and erratic courtship displays, and establish nesting territories. The females choose breeding sites and build nests of vegetal debris and spider silk. The nests are suspended hammock-wise from the fork or crotch of a shade tree 2.5-4.5 meters above the ground. Females lay one egg per day until a clutch of three or so creamy white, brown-spotted eggs is complete. In Ontario, eggs are laid between June 8 and July 30. Incubation is done solely by the females and lasts 13 to 15 days; males actively defend the nesting sites. Like other flycatchers, the species mainly forages in flight, catching flying insects such as bees, wasps, ants, beetles, and moths.

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Threats

The main limiting factor is continuing forest loss in southern Ontario. Perhaps equally important are logging practices in the remaining forests that are incompatible with maintaining the species. Residential and agricultural development in or near woodlots can also have negative consequences for sensitive wildlife like the Acadian flycatcher.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Acadian Flycatcher is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Acadian Flycatcher occurs within Long Point Wildlife Area, which is federal land protected under SARA. It is protected by the Canada National Parks Act where it occurs in Point Pelee National Park. It is also protected by the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, or collect adults, young, and eggs.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) and the Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Acadian Flycatcher and Hooded Warbler

  • Lyle Friesen - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
    Phone: 519-826-2092  Fax: 519-826-2092  Send Email

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Acadian Flycatcher in Canada (2010-09-03)

    The Acadian Flycatcher, Empidonax virescens, is a drab flycatcher with olive- green upperparts, pale underparts and a pale eye-ring. This small songbird is very similar in appearance to other Empidonax flycatchers and is best distinguished by its distinctive peet-sa song and other characteristic vocalizations.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Acadian Flycatcher (2010-12-02)

    In Canada, this species is restricted to certain types of mature forest in southern Ontario. Only small numbers breed in Canada. Although the population appears to have been relatively stable over the past 10-20 years, this is most likely due to immigration from U.S. populations. The species is threatened by forestry practices, particularly those that target removal of large trees. Serious conservation concerns, both in Canada and the adjacent U.S. also stem from increasingly widespread losses of a variety of favoured nest tree species owing to the spread of an array of invasive forest insects and pathogens. Collectively, these threats to habitat greatly reduce potential for rescue from adjacent U.S. populations.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) and the Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina) in Canada (2012-02-17)

    The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. The Acadian Flycatcher was listed as endangered under SARA in June 2003 and the Hooded Warbler as threatened in June 2003. A single recovery strategy for these two species has been developed due to the similarity in occurrences, threats, and recovery approaches. Environment Canada led the development of this recovery strategy. This recovery strategy was prepared in cooperation with the Province of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources) and Long Point Region Conservation Authority as per section 39 (1) of SARA.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada (2021-10-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada applies to all federally owned lands and waters managed by Parks Canada in Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP), including Bead Hill National Historic Site. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the province of Ontario, the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, and environmental non-government organizations as per section 48(1) of SARA. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at RNUP. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010-09-03)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010-12-02)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Residence Description

  • Description of residence for Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens) in Canada (2007-08-07)

    The following is a description of residence for the Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens), created for the purposes of increasing public awareness and aiding enforcement of the above prohibition. Acadian Flycatchers are known to have one type of residence – the nest. Preface updated on May 17, 2017.
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