Quick facts

Common name: pied flycatcher

Scientific name: Ficedula hypoleuca

Family: Muscicapidae (flycatchers and chats)

Habitat: Atlantic rainforest and mature woodland

Diet: flying insects, caterpillars and other invertebrates

Predators: birds of prey

Origin: native

What do pied flycatchers look like?

Males: Male pied flycatchers are black with a bright white belly, throat and wing patches. They also have a small white patch on their forehead.

Females: Similarly patterned but much duller overall with a brown back and head. Their belly and throat is paler.

Not to be confused with: the light brown spotted flycatcher (Phoenicurus ochruros) or pied wagtail (Motacilla alba).

What do pied flycatchers eat?

Pied flycatchers snatch flying insects from the air, often using favoured perches among tree branches from which to dart at passing prey. They will also take caterpillars and other invertebrates.

Credit: Mike Wilkes / naturepl.com

How do pied flycatchers breed?

Pied flycatchers are summer migrants, arriving from central Africa to breed in the UK between April and October.

This bird is a cavity nester, using holes in mature trees as well as nest boxes. Six or seven light blue eggs are usually laid which hatch after two weeks of incubation. Chicks then spend another 16-17 days in the nest before fledging.  

Did you know?

The oldest known pied flycatcher has been recorded by ringers at 9 years old. 

Where do pied flycatchers live?

Pied flycatchers are mainly found in mature oak forests in western parts of the UK. They are temperate rainforest specialists, thriving in the wet, mild conditions of the coastal woodlands of Wales, Scotland and South West England.

Trees woods and wildlife

Temperate rainforest

Also known as Atlantic or Celtic rainforest, this special habitat is incredibly rare. Its lush conditions are perfect for scarce plants, lichens and fungi, as well as a number of unusual animals.

Learn more about the UK's rainforest

Signs and spotted tips

Pied flycatchers feed among the branches of mature oak trees. Look for their tell-tale fluttery, hovering flight as they dart from their perch after flying insects, often returning to the same spot before launching again. 

Pied flycatcher song

Audio: Mike Harper / xeno-canto.org

Credit: Alan Williams / naturepl.com

Threats and conservation

Pied flycatcher numbers are in decline. The species' conservation status is Red Listed  due to recent declines in both breeding populations and range.

Woodland nest box schemes, particularly in the species' stronghold in Wales, are helping conservationists monitor breeding success and population numbers. 

Discover more about the UK's woodland birds