Bird Database

Alder Flycatcher

(Empidonax alnorum)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Long distance


Strongly increasing


Habitat loss and fragmentation

Conservation Actions

None identifified

Alder Flycatcher

(Empidonax alnorum)

The Alder Flycatcher, as its name implies, is partial to shrubby wetlands, although not always with alders present. Classic habitats in New Hampshire include beaver meadows, bogs, and open riparian thickets, although it will also use revegetating clearcuts dominated by birches and maples if they are near water. Not much is known about the species, at least in part because of its similarity to the Willow Flycatcher. 

Alder and Willow Flycatchers were once considered the same species, and until 1973 were called “Traill’s” flycatcher. The split was the result of studies showing that there were two distinct song-types in Traill’s Flycatcher, and that birds using each song were not interbreeding. Thus we now have the Alder Flycatcher with a northern distribution and the Willow in the south and west. The two species overlap across much of the northeastern United States, and in New Hampshire Alder is found statewide (although less common than Willow in the southeast). 

Because these two species are so closely related, it is impossible to tell them visually, even in the hand. Instead, observers need to rely on songs and calls, which are thankfully distinctive. The song of the Alder is a raspy “fee-be-o” with the emphasis on the second syllable. Sometimes the second and third syllables blur together resulting in a “fee-beer” that could be confused with an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Although these two species can share the same habitat in northern New Hampshire, the introductory note of the Olive-sided’s “quick-free-beer” is always present if not always heard. The larger Olive-sided is also far more likely to sing from high in a snag versus a clump of shrubs. In contrast, the Willow Flycatcher’s song is an emphatic “fitz-bew” with the stress on the first syllable. In some parts of New Hampshire you can find both Willow and Alder in the same area, allowing for easy comparison of their songs. 

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Alder Flycatcher
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count