These are photos of the Vermillion Flycatcher I worked with today outside Camp Verde, Arizona. But, did you know that these birds have had an economic impact beyond just looking pretty?
We saw this same male Vermillion Flycatcher a few weeks ago during the Christmas Bird Count and I went back today to get a better set of photos. It took me more than an hour to get what I have. The bird had the nerve to forage on the wrong side of someone’s fence. There was no stalking this guy; I had to sit and wait.
My first encounter with Vermillions came more than 40 years ago when I came to Arizona as a brand new grad student and worked with a man who was doing his Ph.D. dissertation on the breeding biology of the Vermillion Flycatcher. To no great surprise, the bird turned out to be highly dependent upon tall Cottonwood trees in our Valley for nesting sites and foraging territories. Interestingly enough, one of the big utility companies serving Phoenix was looking into clear cutting the Verde riparian zones to decrease water loss through leaf evaporation (transpiration) at that time. The intention was, of course, to increase water flow to a thirsty Phoenix. Fortunately, that idea went away. However, if the plan had actually moved into the seriously considered stage, hard data about the role of trees in the breeding success of uncommon species such as Vermillion Flycatchers would have become valuable bullets in the arsenal of common sense. In that manner, the study of this little red bird could have had major economic impact. Funny how things can work out.