Pied flycatchers are quintessential Dartmoor birds. They tend to live in upland Sessile oakwoods on the fringes of Dartmoor. They are migrant birds – spending the winter in Africa only to return to Britain in the spring to breed here. As their name suggests these birds feed on flies / insects – they sit on branches and then flit out to catch their prey. For me, they are very smart looking birds and I always try and see them once April arrives. The following set of photographs were taken in Natural England’s Yarner Woods north of Bovey Tracey on Thursday this week.
The two white blobs above the bill are a characteristic feature of the species. Note also the blue ring on the leg – this bird has been ringed in 2015 (or before) – either at Yarner or elsewhere and has returned after its migration to Africa
Pied flycatchers are pretty vocal – their song / call is quite characteristic – listen to it here with David Attenborough
Traditionally pied flycatchers would have nested in holes in trees but they also nest in boxes. Here the male is already feeding the female in the box. The widespread use of pied flycatcher nest boxes has undoubtedly helped the species. There are now less old trees with holes than there were formerly.
This is the distribution map of pied flycatchers in Devon from the fabulous Devon Bird Atlas 2007-2013 (a must have book- see here). Its strongholds on Dartmoor are in the Bovey, Teign and Dart Valleys. Fortunately its population appears stable.
A huge amount of research has been carried out on Devon’s pied flycatchers by Malcolm Burgess who runs a website PiedFly.net see here. He, along with other researchers have recently published a paper which details the migration routes of pied flycatchers which have been ‘installed’ with geotrackers – see here.