Turn in The Sibley Guide to Birds to the first page of the 11 Empidonax species that North American birders have to contend with and the scientific name of the very first species says it all: Empidonax difficilis. Because, having managed to determine that the small flycatcher that you’re looking at is really an Empidonax, and not a Contopus, your identification problems now begin.
Here in Costa Rica, we don’t see Empidonax difficilis itself, but we do still have 8 different species of that family. Of these, fortunately, the three resident species are relatively easy to identify. We are now out of the migration season, which means that yesterday’s Empidonax, lurking unobtrusively in the shade of the path up to Las Orquídeas from the Las Truchas bar, was relatively easy to identify. Despite its status as “common”, it’s only my second sighting of this cute little bird, the Yellowish Flycatcher (Empidonax flavescens) in our area.
Karel Straatman‘s photo above shows the salient field marks: big eye ring, extending noticeably behind the eye, ochraceous wash on the breast and two wing bars. Neither my bird nor the one in this photograph showed as much yellow as in the field guide illustrations.