San Diego Management & Monitoring Program

Distribution and Abundance of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus) on the Upper San Luis Rey River, San Diego County, California—2021 Data Summary

Type: report

Article abstract: We surveyed for Southwestern Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus; flycatcher) along the upper San Luis Rey River near Lake Henshaw in Santa Ysabel, California, in 2021. Surveys were completed at four locations: three downstream from Lake Henshaw, where surveys occurred from 2015 to 2020 (Rey River Ranch [RRR], Cleveland National Forest [CNF], Vista Irrigation District [VID]), and one at VID Lake Henshaw (VLH) that has been surveyed annually since 2018. There were 78 territorial flycatchers detected at 3 locations (RRR, CNF, VLH), and 1 transient flycatcher of unknown subspecies was detected at VID. Downstream from Lake Henshaw, five flycatchers, including three males and two females, were detected at RRR and CNF. In total, three territories were established, consisting of two pairs and one male of undetermined breeding status. At VLH, we detected 73 flycatchers, including 32 males, 38 females, and 3 flycatchers of unknown sex. In total, 43 territories were established, containing 38 pairs (22 monogamous pairings, 7 confirmed polygynous groups consisting of 7 males each pairing with 2 different females, and 1 suspected polygynous group consisting of 1 male and 2 females), and 5 flycatchers of undetermined breeding status (2 males and 3 flycatchers of unknown sex). Brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater; cowbird) were detected at all four survey locations. Flycatchers used five habitat types in the survey area: (1) mixed willow riparian, (2) willow-cottonwood, (3) willow-oak, (4) willow-ash, and (5) sycamore-oak. Eighty-seven percent of the flycatchers were detected in habitat characterized as mixed willow riparian, and 94 percent of the flycatchers were detected in habitat with greater than 95-percent native plant cover. Exotic vegetation was not prevalent in the survey area. There were 15 nests incidentally located during surveys: 1 was successful, 2 were seen with eggs or nestlings on the last visit, 9 failed, and the outcome of the remaining 3 nests was unknown. Three of these nests were parasitized by cowbirds. There were 13 juveniles detected at VLH during surveys; no juveniles were detected at RRR or CNF. Of the 10 banded flycatchers detected during surveys, 7 were resighted and confirmed to be adults that held territories in previous years. Three flycatchers with a single dark blue federal band, indicating that they were banded as nestlings in the former demo

Number of pages: 22

Authors: Howell, Scarlett L.; Kus, Barbara;

Year: 2022


Prepared for: San Diego Association of Governments;

Prepared by: U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center;

Keywords: southwestern willow flycatcher; status and distribution; status of distribution and abundance;

Species: Southwestern willow flycatcher

Vegetation communities: riparian forest & scrub