Quick facts

Common name: spotted flycatcher

Scientific name: Muscicapa striata

Family: Muscicapidae (flycatchers)

Habitat: woodland edges and clearings, parks, gardens

Diet: butterflies, damselflies, wasps, bees, moths, craneflies

Predators: juveniles are often taken from the nest by jays and domestic cats

Origin: native

What do spotted flycatchers look like?

The spotted flycatcher is a somewhat ordinary-looking bird, mostly grey-brown in colour with paler streaks, particularly on the head and wings. It has a creamy white breast which is streaked with pale brown.

It is a small bird, measuring just 14cm in length and weighing in at a maximum of 19g. Juveniles are very similar in appearance however they are a darker brown and heavily spotted with pale markings.

What do spotted flycatchers eat?

As the name suggests, spotted flycatchers enjoy feasting on flying insects, which they catch mid-flight. Butterflies, moths, damselflies and craneflies make up this bird’s diet. Wasps and bees also feature, which it makes safe to eat by rubbing the sting end on its perch, removing it.

Spotted flycatchers hunt by sitting on a perch, waiting for their prey to fly by before darting to catch it. When flying insects are scarce it will also forage for insects among vegetation.

Spotted flycatcher feeding chick.

Credit: Nick Upton / Naturepl.com

How do spotted flycatchers breed?

Spotted flycatchers are migratory birds, spending the winter in Africa. They arrive in the UK to breed from late April to early May, building a nest out of grass, lichens and twigs, usually in a sheltered crevice. A clutch of four to five eggs is laid and hatches after around 12-14 days. 13-16 days after hatching the chicks are ready to fledge.

Did you know?

This bird is a similar size to a house martin or robin.

Where do spotted flycatchers live?

This species favours woodland edges and clearings, as well as parks and gardens. They are found across the UK; however they are less abundant in the far north and west.

Signs and spotted tips

Look out for the spotted flycatcher from late April to August, in woods and gardens with lots of trees and vegetation. Listen out for its quiet ‘tseep tseep’ call and somewhat squeaky song, or see if you can spot passing birds from northern Europe on the wing during September.

Spotted flycatcher song

Audio: Bernard King / xeno-canto.org

Spotted flycatcher landing on perch.

Credit: Christopher Cook / Alamy Stock Photo

Threats and conservation

The spotted flycatcher population is in serious decline. Between 1967 and 2012, the population dropped by 89%, making it a red list species of conservation concern. While the definitive reason is unclear, there are many possible explanations for the decline. Conditions in their wintering grounds in Africa could be to blame, as could a decline in flying insects (their main food source).

Did you know?

The spotted flycatcher is often the last migrant bird species to reach the UK for the summer months.