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Photo credit: Scarlett Howell, USGS

Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) | ESA status: endangered

Southwestern willow flycatcher

These rare birds depend on healthy riparian vegetation to breed, a commodity that is growing increasingly scarce in the southwestern United States.

Southwestern willow flycatcher habitat

Southwestern willow flycatchers breed in southern California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, southern Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and extreme northwestern Mexico. Insect-rich riparian areas are essential for them to recharge from their migration and have a successful breeding season.

What are the threats to the Southwestern willow flycatcher?

Water withdrawal from rivers, mainly for agriculture, has fragmented and degraded flycatcher habitat. For example, Arizona has lost up to 90 percent of major lowland riparian habitat. Dams also fragment flycatcher habitat; there were a known 4,659 dams in flycatcher breeding range as of 2017. As a result of impacts from dams, water withdrawal, and other factors, southwestern desert rivers are the most severely altered in the United States.

What WildEarth Guardians is doing to protect the Southwestern willow flycatcher

Guardians has long been urging water management authorities to rethink rivers in order to restore in-stream flows, particularly on the Rio Grande. Securing the river the right to its own water would ensure preservation of streamside habitat for the flycatcher and other animals and plants that depend on a living river.