Yesterday, along the China Ranch trail, at the lower end of the China Ranch parking lot, I heard an unusual bird sound, like “whit whit whit” over and over. The sound reminded me of a Willow Flycatcher, but I couldn’t see it. Soon after I hear the definitive “fitz-bew” song, then was rewarded with a good look and a few more fitz-bews. The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher is federally endangered. They migrate through Shoshone and the Amargosa region in May and June, then again in fall when they return to Mexico, Central and South America for the winter.
Do Willow Flycatchers breed in Shoshone and along the Amargosa? Much of the Amargosa River is designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as “Critical Habitat” for Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. They are not currently known to be breeding along the Amargosa River, but have nested in the past at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Occasionally, the Amargosa Canyon will host an apparent territorial male, who will hold a territory for a while, relentlessly singing from favorite high perches, fighting with other flycatcher species nearby, and overall appearing ready for a mate. With short supply of possible mates to choose from, these males seem to have remained un-mated.
Will habitat restoration measures elsewhere expand Southwestern Willow Flycatcher populations? If they do, will the Amargosa River be populated/repopulated by dispersing birds? How can we improve our habitat to be more favorable to possible Southwestern Willow Flycatcher use? They need a dense shady canopy, preferably willow, with nearby water. The Northern end of the Amargosa River in Tecopa has this type of habitat, and it could be enhanced to be more accommodating to Willow Flycatchers.
References:Status, Ecology, and Conservation of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Published by US Departmant of Agriculture in September of 2000.
USFWS critical Habitat map amargosa.MAP