Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Ash-throated Flycatcher - Myiarchus cinerascens
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General Comments The Ash-throated Flycatcher is a Western species, breeding from southern Washington to Texas. Like most other flycatchers, it withdraws from the majority of this range in fall, to winter mainly in Mexico. However, strays do move eastward to the Gulf Coast in winter. Prior to 2005, it was considered Accidental or Casual in North Carolina, but it now occurs annually (though often just one or two records) near the coast, generally in late fall. As of 2022, there were about 65 state records, but in fall 2023 there was an explosion of records in the eastern Coastal Plain and Piedmont, starting in mid-Nov and continuing into the winter. Birds typically occur along margins of forests, where there is a brushy ecotone; they spend the night in the forest, come to the edge in the morning for warming up and for foraging on insects, and then often disappear later on (back into the forest?). Other habitats in the state include thicket margins, and weedy fields with some shrubs.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Greatly increasing in late fall and winter near the coast; late autumn migrant/visitor, with birds attempting to overwinter (though very few birds have been completely successful). Rare (and essentially annual now) along the northern and central coast and in Tidewater; very rare farther south. Several far inland records, all thus far only from Sampson -- 1 Jan 2020, 15 Jan - 8 Feb 2021, and 20 Jan - 16 Feb 2021. Range of dates are 1 Nov into Mar, except for one bird photographed at Pea Island NWR on 24 Sep 1994 [Chat 61:266-68 link]. One bird at Alligator River NWR from 6 Feb - 7 Mar 2022 likely overwintered there. The "repeated" visits at a few favored locales seems to suggest that a few birds are returning to winter where they did the previous winter. Peak counts: 2 at Alligator River NWR, 30 Dec 2013; 2 at that refuge, 3 Feb 2020; 2, North River Preserve (Carteret), 29 Nov 2020.
Piedmont Casual to perhaps now very rare stray/visitor. Two sight reports are from the Raleigh area: one on 16 May 1973 [Chat 39:40-43 link], [Chat 54:56 link]; and one on 16 Jan 2009 [Chat 73:67 link]. A third sight record is from Winston-Salem on 26 Nov 2010 [Chat 75:48 link]. The first Piedmont report with photographs came from the Randolph Middle School grounds in Mecklenburg on 18 Nov 2017 [Chat 82:42 link]; and a second such report was at Charlotte on 31 Oct - 1 Nov 2019 [Chat 84:24 link]. Another was in the Charlotte area on 26 Dec 2020 [Chat 85:69 link]. In fall 2023, singles were photographed south of Raleigh (Wake) on 12 Nov, at Chantilly Ecological Sanctuary (Mecklenburg) on 13 Nov, and at Guilford County Farm in that county on 24-27 Nov.
Mountains Accidental. One videotaped in Henderson on 28 Oct 1999 is the only record for the mountains.
Finding Tips There have now been numerous recent records at Alligator River NWR, and somewhat fewer near Pungo Lake and along the NC 94 causeway over Lake Mattamuskeet. Thus, when birding such areas in Nov or Dec, keep an eye out for flycatchers. Of course, practically all will be Eastern Phoebes, but Western Kingbirds and Tropical Kingbirds are also possible in such areas.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-03-24], LeGrand[2022-04-27]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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