Vermilion Flycatcher

The stunning scarlet bird of the Galapagos


A highlight for bird spotters from around the world, the Galapagos Vermilion Flycatcher is a stunning bird that is instantly recognisable. There are actually two species resident in Galapagos, Darwin’s Vermilion Flycatcher, which can be found on several islands, and the San Cristobal Flycatcher, which only lives on the Galapagos Island that gives its name.

The Vermilion Flycatchers on Galapagos have been the subject of some controversy, as there have been scientific arguments as to whether they are actually separate species or merely subspecies of other Vermilion Flycatchers found in South America. Currently, the argument is being won by scientists who think the Galapagos Vermilion Flycatchers are their own distinct species.

These quick and agile little birds are very appropriately named - the males have a brilliant red breast and head, with a distinctive black “mask” and black upper body feathers. The females are rather more subtle, with brown upper body and yellow underparts.

Vermilion Flycatchers tend to perch and wait for their prey to come by before a quick darting flight to catch them. They eat flying insects and beetles and usually prefer to catch them in flight rather than on the ground. In the Galapagos, the bright red flash of the males catching prey is a wonderful sight, and photographing a Vermilion Flycatcher is one of the “must have” shots for a bird watching trip.

The best time to spot the Vermilion Flycatcher in the Galapagos is during the breeding season, which runs from December to May when insect populations are at their peak. Populations have been declining recently, mainly due to changes of land use by human activity on the inhabited islands, but also because of some introduced species, including a parasitic fly. Here at Galapatours our expert naturalist guides will ensure that you visit a wide variety of habitats on your land excursions, including the Scalesia forests favored by these stunning little birds.

Photos of the Vermilion Flycatcher

Fast Facts about the Vermilion Flycatcher

  • Female Vermilion Flycatchers are completely different, with grey-brown heads, backs and wings, a blackish tail, and a white throat
  • You can often see Vermilion Flycatchers perching and bobbing their tails up and down
  • Male Vermilion Flycatchers sing a musical song to impress potential mates
  • Both male and female Vermilion Flycatchers help to feed their young

Where can the Vermilion Flycatcher be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Vermilion Flycatcher