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Number of species: 71

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Great Crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus crinitus

Great Crested Flycatcher has an incomplete preformative molt that occurs mostly on the wintering grounds, as do the partial to incomplete prealternate molts; the prebasic molt is completed prior to fall migration. Differences in feather shape and condition tend to be subtle, and ageing is often only reliable through skulling in fall. Sexes are also difficult to distinguish as plumage is identical, and even in the breeding season both develop a brood patch, and males have only a poorly developed cloacal protuberance.

Note that several Myiarchus flycatchers are quite similar in appearance; especially where ranges overlap or in situations where any of the species are unexpected, identification should be considered carefully.

Quick tips

  • Examine the primary coverts - on FCF/FCA (HY/SY) birds they are relatively narrow and pointed (and paler than the greater coverts in spring), while on DCB/DCA (AHY/ASY) birds they are broader and more rounded, and uniform in colour and wear with the greater coverts in all seasons.
  • Look at the secondaries - on FPF (HY) birds during migration and DCB/DCA (AHY/ASY) birds they are uniform in colour and wear, but there can be a molt limt with up to three middle feathers slightly paler and more worn (FCF/HY) or darker and fresher (FCA/SY) than the others.
  • In fall, consider the shape and colour of the rectrices - on FCF (HY) birds they are somewhat pointed and quite rufous, while on DCB (AHY) birds they are more rounded and slightly duller.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2018). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: May - November)
Plumage uniformly fresh, with distinct rusty tones
U
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FCF - (HY: October - December; SY January - April)
Primary coverts relatively narrow and pointed, somewhat paler than greater coverts; up to three central secondaries sometimes contrastingly paler and more worn; rectrices somewhat pointed and quite rufous
No images available yet
FCA - (SY: April - August)
Primary coverts relatively narrow and pointed, somewhat paler than greater coverts; up to three central secondaries sometimes contrastingly darker and fresher; rectrices somewhat pointed and quite rufous
No images available yet
DCB - (AHY: July - December; ASY January - March)
Primary coverts relatively broad and rounded, similar in darkness to the greater coverts; rectrices somewhat rounded and relatively dull
No images available yet
DCA - (ASY: March - August)
Primary coverts relatively broad and rounded, similar in darkness to the greater coverts; rectrices somewhat rounded and relatively dull
U
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Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: May - July)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: August - December; SY January - January)
Prior to fall migration, some body feathers and wing coverts being replaced; after fall migration, primaries, most secondaries, rectrices, and remaining greater coverts (but not primary coverts) being replaced
No images available yet
FPA - (SY: March - May)
Similar to FCA, with any retained juvenile secondaries being replaced, along with most to all tertials and up to three inner greater coverts
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - August)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primary coverts distinctly pale and worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - August)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primary coverts either distinctly adult (brownish, with moderate wear) or intermediate
U
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DPA - (ASY: February - April)
Similar to DCA, with some to all tertials and up to four inner greater coverts being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U August - August Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY October - March In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY March - April Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCA / UCA (FCA, DCA) AHY April - August In alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable