By Dan Weisz
The Vermilion Flycatcher is a spectacular looking bird with distinctive behavior. The males are a brilliant red or red-orange with a black/brown/gray back and mask through the eye. The Flycatcher will sit and wait on an open perch, locate prey, and then pursue it. It can take prey on the wing or off of the ground, and then it returns to a perch only to continue hunting.
While watching this particular Vermilion, I noticed it preening- cleaning and adjusting its feathers. I was surprised to see that those bright red feathers had different colors below the surface. There is a hint of this in the photo below, taken a second after the bird paused from its preening
As the Vermilion Flycatcher returned to ’scratching’ deep into its belly, you can see that the breast feathers are white under the surface and then very dark below that.
And as the bird relaxed and sat up, the opening in the breast feathers closed, but the base of the feathers is still visible.
The Vermilion’s coloring is always striking to see, and now we know a little secret about its feathers that make this bird even more interesting.
You can find Vermilion Flycatchers throughout Tucson at any grassy field or open area. Look around at your local park, schoolyard, golf course, ball field and any similar habitat to spot this special bird.