U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 22, November 2008


US government work.


The buff-breasted fl ycatcher is a rare bird that inhabits forests of the southwestern U.S. Long-term fire exclusion in these forests may have contributed to the buff-breasted fl ycatcher’s historical range contraction and recent population declines. Buff-breasted flycatchers today use less than 10% of their former U.S. breeding habitat. Researchers from the University of Arizona surveyed buff-breasted flycatchers along previously surveyed and new survey routes, some of which had burned during recent wildfires, within nine mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona. Sixty-three percent of the previously surveyed routes showed negative trends, a 10.5% annual decline in buff-breasted flycatcher numbers. Buffbreasted fl ycatchers found at survey points were in areas that had burned, and their numbers tended to be greater in areas that had been burned by high-severity surface or crown fi res. Recent high-severity forest fires in the southwestern U.S. may improve habitat quality for the buff-breasted flycatcher and facilitate re-colonization of the species into its historical breeding range. A mosaic of recently burned and unburned areas appears to be the most suitable habitat for the birds, and therefore to increasing their numbers. In addition, repeated applications of low to moderate-severity prescribed fires may help to remove understory plant clutter thought to limit foraging by buff-breasted flycatchers.