Flycatcher Identification: Red-breasted, Taiga, and Kashmir Flycatchers

Identifying Flycatchers: Red-breasted Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, and Kashmir Flycatcher

This is a Hindi translation of the original article published in English. Screenwriters: Tarun Menon and Ashwin Vishwanathan, Translator: Pravar Maurya

red-breasted, taiga And Kashmir Flycatcher All three are similar flycatchers that are fissedula (string) belong to the genus. Initially, all three were thought to be subspecies of the red-breasted flycatcher, but molecular studies have shown that all three are distinct but separate species of a single ancestral species. These three species can be distinguished from other superficially similar flycatchers, such as the Asian brown flycatcher and the brown-breasted flycatcher, by their white-edged black tails and their tendency to frequently raise their tails. But as you may have noticed, distinguishing between these three species can be tricky! Although the male is quite easy to identify, it is extremely difficult to distinguish the female from the first winterers. For “flycatcher”, the word Makkhimar or Machhariya is used in Hindi in many places.

The taiga flycatcher exhibits a distinctive tail-wagging behavior that is common to all three species in this group.

geographical scope

The red-breasted flycatcher breeds in eastern Europe and western Asia, the taiga flycatcher breeds in central and eastern Asia, while the Kashmir flycatcher’s breeding range is restricted to the western Himalayas of the Kashmir and northeast Pakistan. Despite their diverse breeding grounds, all three species can be found in peninsular India during the winter season from October to March, often in the same locality! See the migration maps below which clearly show the differences in breeding and wintering grounds for these three species. The taiga and the ruddy-breasted flycatcher share almost identical habitat throughout the peninsula during winter, but the taiga is more common in eastern and northeastern India (where the ruddy-breasted flycatcher is rarely find). The rufous-breasted flycatcher is more common in the west (where taiga is also commonly found). The Kashmiri flycatcher can be seen in northern and central India during their migrations, but they mainly winter in the higher elevations of the Nilgiris (where all three species can occur) and Sri Lanka. So if you see one of these flycatchers east of West Bengal, you can be sure it’s a taiga flycatcher, and if you see a flycatcher in Kashmir during the breeding months, you can be sure that it may be a Kashmiri flycatcher!

Red breasted Flycatcher Taiga Flycatcher 50 32 180 70 2
Migration map of the red-breasted flycatcher optimize
Kashmiri flycatcher migration map

Identification: Red-breasted Flycatcher vs Taiga Flycatcher

In some Hindi-speaking places, “turra” is used as a local name for the red-breasted flycatcher and the taiga flycatcher.


The beak of the taiga flycatcher is almost entirely black. In comparison, the red-breasted flycatcher’s beak is variable in color and can range from completely dark (as in the taiga) to partially lighter.


Adult breeding males are relatively easy to identify by the amount of red on the throat and chest. The taiga flycatcher (also called the rufous-throated flycatcher) has a deep red coloration confined to the throat, often (but not always) with a gray stripe separating the throat and the cream-colored belly. The red-breasted flycatcher, unlike the taiga, has a red color from the throat to the upper part of the chest, which merges with the white belly.

In non-breeding times, the red-breasted flycatcher has an indefinite amount of red on the throat and chest, while the taiga flycatcher loses its red throat color. Male red-breasted flycatchers in this plumage may sometimes superficially resemble the plumage of a male taiga flycatcher during the breeding season, but remember that non-breeding male taiga flycatchers do not have red on the throat and it may look like a female bird! Usually it is not until February that their throats begin to turn red, when they begin to change feathers to their breeding plumage. So if you see a rufous-throated bird between October and January, you can be sure it’s a rufous-breasted flycatcher, even if it has red on its chest. Additionally, the red-breasted flycatcher lacks the full gray breast band that can be seen in the taiga flycatcher (although this is not always obvious).

If you see a bird that does not have red coloration (it may be a female, a subadult male, or a nonbreeding male taiga: a bird called “female type” in this plumage), identify it. longest uppertail-coverts (medium). These are the feathers just below the rump at the base of the tail. The rufous-breasted flycatcher has brownish-gray upper caudal fins that are usually slightly lighter or the same color as its tail, while the taiga flycatcher has brownish upper caudal fins. (Uppertail coverts) It is nearly inky black, and its tail feathers are as dark or darker than the tail itself.


Note the grey-brown upper caudal fin of the rufous-breasted flycatcher (top row) and the dark upper caudal fin of the taiga flycatcher (bottom row). Also note that all of the taiga flycatchers in the bottom row have dark beaks, but not all of the rufous-breasted flycatchers in the top row have light beaks!

(Acknowledgments – Clockwise from top: Mittal Gala, Sandeep Das, Sriram Reddy, Renuka Vijayaraghavan, Ian Burgess, Priyam Chattopadhyay)

Note: some additional plumage differences that are sometimes used to identify female types, They are not covered in this article as they are very subtle and often light dependent.


The voice is the best way to distinguish “feminine types”. Both flycatchers often make noise during the winter by wagging their tails up and down, possibly to defend their wintering territory against other birds of their kind. The sounds of both species are repeated trills. The voice of the red-breasted flycatcher sounds like “trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr to their toes, where each note is distinctly audible to the human ear. In comparison, the taiga flycatcher has a high-pitched vocalization that can sound like a long sustained “drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrarywide.” The recording and spectrogram below illustrate this fact; Pay attention to the intervals between the different notes.

There are also other vocalizations in both species., especially a tickand sometimes like a squirrelChip

Kashmir Flycatcher


The Kashmiri flycatcher’s beak is usually dark in color with extensive pale/light coloration in the lower mandible (the lower half of its beak). Note however that the beak can range from very dark to completely pale/pale! Often the adult male’s beak is completely yellow/clear.


A male Kashmir flycatcher has a more extensive rufous on the throat and chest than the rufous-breasted taiga and is surrounded by a pronounced black malar streak that extends to the upper chest.

Adult females have light brown upperparts and usually a slight rufous appearance (sometimes scaly or barred) on the breast, which is often visible on the underparts and extending to the lower abdomen and flanks. The plumage of subadult males is indistinct and some may resemble females while others may have varying amounts of reddish-rufous coloration on the throat as in adult males.

Note: A subadult Kashmiri flycatcher may have, black mustache (malar stripe) not, and instead have reddish-brown underparts edged in grey, giving it a resemblance to the red-breasted flycatcher; Although, Lower parts of Lal-Badami in the Kashmiri flycatcher (red bottom) are generally more extensive.

An adult male Kashmiri Flycatcher in breeding season

A subadult Kashmiri flycatcher

Females have dark tail-like dark uppertail-coverts (as in taiga flycatchers) and sometimes a pale reddish-brown breast.

Note the light rufous color on the chest of the Kashmiri flycatcher.


As mentioned earlier, the call of the Kashmiri flycatcher is almost identical to that of the red-breasted flycatcher. The Kashmiri flycatcher also has a unique “eep eep” call, which can be heard in the field remarkably similar to the red-breasted flycatcher’s “sip sip” call, but with a spectrogram ( can be differentiated on the basis of The call of the Kashmiri flycatcher has a high note which is absent from the call of the red-breasted flycatcher.

Kashmir Flycatcher spreading its tail like a fan.


The Kashmiri flycatcher sometimes pokes its tail repeatedly in addition to raising its tail, a behavior rarely seen in the other two flycatchers. So if you spot a flycatcher repeatedly fanning its tail, start investigating because you might have a rare Kashmiri flycatcher among you!

Kashmir Flycatcher spreading its tail like a fan.


Although this article describes the main characteristics that facilitate identification, remember that a single characteristic is insufficient to make an accurate identification. You will often need to consider a combination of several characteristics to tell these three very similar flycatchers apart. For example, a “female type” flycatcher with a darker beak may be one of three. Mais un gobe-mouche “de type femelle” avec un bec plus foncé, des couvertures sus-caudales plus foncées et un ‘drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr un moucherolle taiga! As we all know, Ficedula flycatchers are very active birds and are not always cooperative. Sometimes you only catch a brief glimpse of the bush. In such cases, you can still identify the bird as “Taiga/Red-breasted Flycatcher” or “Ficedula asp”. (Ficedula sp.) and next time try to find additional clues. Good luck watching Flycatcher.

This article is available in English, Kannada and Marathi

Photo caption: Red-breasted Flycatcher © Farid Mohammad/Macaulay Library

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