Bird Identification – Crested Flycatcher

Far more tyrannical than the kingbird is this “wild Irishman,” as John Burroughs calls the large flycatcher with the tousled head and harsh, uncanny voice, who prowls around the woods and orchards startling most feathered friends and foes with a loud, piercing exclamation that sounds like What! Unlike good children, he is more often heard than seen.

That the solitary, unpopular bird takes a mischievous delight in scaring its enemies, you may know when I tell you that it likes better than any other lining for its nest, a cast snake skin. Is it any wonder that the baby flycatchers’ hair stands on end? If the great-crest cannot find the skin of a snake to coil around her eggs, or to hang out of the nest, she may use onion skins, or oiled paper, or even fish scales; for what was once a protective custom, sometimes becomes degraded into a cheap imitation of the imitation in the furnishing of her house. Into an abandoned woodpeckers’ hole or a bluebirds’ cavity after the babies of these early nesters have flown, or into some unappropriated hollow in a tree, this flycatcher carries enough grasses, weeds and feathers to keep her nestlings cozy during those rare days of June beloved by Lowell, but which Dr. Holmes observed are often so rare they are raw.