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Photo courtesy Stuart Elsom

Boat-billed Flycatcher

The head is black with a concealed yellow crown patch and a broad white supercillary stripe that almost completely encircles the head.  The eyes are brown. The bill is black, broad and slightly decurved. The back is brownish olive and the wings are brown. The throat is white, the underparts are yellow and the feet are black.  Male and female are alike.

This bird is similar to the Great Kiskadee. The differences are the large curved bill on the Boat-billed and the absence of the rufous edging to the wings plus the song of the Boat-billed is diferrent.

The common call-note of the Boat-billed Flycatcher is a loud, rather high-pitched monosyllable, rapidly repeated while the bird perches or flies "cho/p choip choip choip." When singing the Boat-billed is usually seen at a  high exposed perch in a tree-top, at the edge of the forest or in a clearing.

This resident of Trinidad is found at forest edges and semi-open areas with large trees. They perch high on the interior branches of large open trees. They do not remain long in any single location and wander widely in pairs or in family groups of three to five. Young Boat-billed Fly-catchers remain with their parents for months, after they have become able to fend for themselves.

Their diet is principally composed of insects, especialy cicadas that they catch amid the foliage or on the bark of the trees. They use a sally-strike technique to snap the prey while they are in flight. When the prey is caught, it is carried to a perch and beaten against the perch. After beating the prey on one side, the bird turns it in its bill by loosening its grip at the same time that it gives the insect a slight toss, then seizes it in a different position and beats it until it has been thoroughly pounded on all sides. After pounding both sides the bird then swallows the prey. They will occasionally perch or hover to take fruit and use the same pounding technique before swallowing the fruit.

Skutch states that "Toucans, more than any other predators, seem to be the reason for the almost constant guard which Boat-billed Flycatchers keep over their eggs and nestlings. The Boat-billed Flycatchers do not wait for the toucans to approach their nests but as a rule go forth to meet them while they are still a long way off and then continue to harry them until they return to the shelter of the forest. So long as the toucans remain perching, the flycatchers, fearing the long, mobile bills, do not attack them, but when the great-beaked bird is on the wing it can not defend its back, and this is the flycatcher's opportunity. Often the bold bird pounces upon the back of the flying toucan. It is careful to separate from the big toucan before he regains a perch where he could turn his bill backward with disastrous consequences to the far smaller flycatcher."

Family - Flycatchers

Other Names - Broad-billed Kiskadee

Latin Name - Megarynchus pitangua

Range - Mexico south to Argentina including Trinidad

Broad-billed_Flycatcher by gallus.jpg (56703 bytes)

Photograph by James Wood


Birds of Venezuela. Steven L. Hilty. 2003, Christopher Helm, London

A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Richard ffrench. 1992, Helm, London

Alexander F. Skutch 1951. Life History Of The Boat-Billed Flycatcher. The Auk Vol. 68

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Last modified: February 16, 2008