Lee’s Three Word Wednesday – 6/14/17


Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) ©ARKive



“That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cut it out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.”  (Jeremiah 22:14)

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) ©ARKive


More Daily Devotionals


Vermilion Flycatchers: Watching from Above

Vermilion Flycatchers: Watching from Above

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings.  (Proverbs 5:21)

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good  (Proverbs 15:3)


As our providence-giving Creator, God surveys (and interacts with) all of the world, watching from above. Yet many small parts of the earth are also “watched from above”, by many of the smallest creatures that God made on Day #5 –  the birds of the air, such as the Vermillion Flycatcher.

If you catch flies (or dragonflies!) for a living, you must fly yourself – quickly, darting here and there. Also, before nabbing an airborne lunch, you must perch and wait  —  attentively watch for it to appear within snatching distance, then go get it! In other words, before you catch, you need to “watch from above” – and that is what wary Vermilion (also spelled “Vermillion”) Flycatchers do.

“Catching flies” is a feat that many outfielders perform in baseball parks, but the real flycatchers (i.e., the tyrant flycatcher family of perching birds, known as Tyrrannidae) rely on snatching their aerial insect prey as their primary dietary habit  —  and the colorful Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is no exception.  In addition to flying insects (such as flies, wasps, honeybees, damselflies, and dragonflies), this tyrant flycatcher happily eats jumping insects (such as grasshoppers and crickets) and crawling bugs (such as beetles, spiders, and termites).


Typically, though, these acrobats nest in tree canopies, feeding in-flight. [Janine M. Benyus, THE FIELD GUIDE TO WILDLIFE HABITATS OF THE WESTERN UNITED STATES (New York: Simon & Schuster/Fireside Books), page 169.]




The ability of birds to watch “from above” is well-known. In fact, a 8-year-old poet (Sydney) recently alluded to that trait, in her succinct free verse:


     Fun colors, flying, watching from above.


[Poem “BIRDS” by Sydney Ledbetter, 5-27-AD2017.]


Actually, it is the male of the species that is so strikingly colorful —  with its bright scarlet head crest (which matches its technical name, meaning “fiery-head”), forehead, and neck, and its belly’s stark vermilion plumage  —  contrasted against its dark UPS-truck-brown eye-shadow “mask”, wings and tail.  (Vermilion, as a color, is a synonym for scarlet, perhaps connoting a hint of cinnamon-like orange shading, as in the mercury sulfide-dominated cinnabar pigment historically used by painters  —  see Jeremiah 22:14 & Ezekiel 23:14, KJV, referring to vermillion as a bright pigment painted on paneling).


In drab contrast, the females have brown-grey plumage atop, with a whitish underside, featuring a whitish breast with mottled grey streaks, down to a lower belly of pinkish-peach plumage – somewhat like a juvenile Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, except the female Vermilion Flycatcher’s head is dark brown-grey. [See Roger Tory Peterson & Virginia Marie Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990), pages 230-231 and map M251.]  The Vermilion Flycatchers are relatively small birds, being only a fraction longer than 5 inches, and typically weighing less than a half-ounce!

Vermillion Flycatcher

So where do Vermilion Flycatchers live? These aerial insectivores range widely in America’s Southwest  (mostly in the southern parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) and almost all of Mexico, plus southward into Central America (and even a few parts of South America).  Thus, the Vermilion Flycatcher is a year-round resident of the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Mojave Deserts.  Although the Vermilion Flycatchers generally prefer warm desert and semi-desert climes, they sometimes breed a bit north of their usual range, during spring-summer  —  such as in southern Nevada, where a pair was observed in the Great Basin scrubland near Reno, during mid-May of AD1981.  [See Fred A. Ryser, Jr., BIRDS OF THE GREAT BASIN (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1985), page 346.]

A wide-ranging bird, this usually warm-climate passerine has even been observed crossing America’s northern border, up into Canada — and now there is even a webcam-verified report (4-17-AD2017) of a stray in Maine, on Hog Island [ see http://www.audubon.org/news/maines-first-verified-vermilion-flycatcher-captured-live-hog-island-web-cam ]!


Geographically, speaking, what kind of habitats can be settled as “home” by Vermilion Flycatchers? Most places with adequate room for flying, and spying flies, will suffice, such as open meadows, farmland, ranchland, semiarid prairies, sagebrush-sprinkled scrublands, and brushy areas near water, such as desert streambanks, pond-edges, and mud-puddles  — i.e., wherever insects often congregate.  Their nests are known be constructed in cottonwoods, mesquites, oaks, sycamores, willows, especially alongside streambanks.

Although many birds of the desert and semi-desert scrublands are drab, including the Vermilion Flycatcher female, the Vermilion Flycatcher male is anything but drab! Its “fiery head” matches its scientific genus name, Pyrocephalus, and its species name, rubinus, reminds us of its ruby-like plumage.

Accordingly, as Pyrocephalus rubinus “watches from above” (with its “fun colors”, like the bright vermillion mentioned in Jeremiah 22:14),  we are reminded of how God Himself watches us from above,  providentially providing our lives with color and action and beauty,   —  maybe someday even including an opportunity to view a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers in America’s Great Southwest.      ><>  JJSJ



Vermilion Flycatcher male perched on post: Lois Manowitz / Cornell

Vermilion Flycatcher atop thistle: Links of Utopia

Vermilion Flycatcher female flying:  Brent Paull

Vermilion Flycatcher male with dragonfly prey: Doug Greenberg / Arkive.org

Vermilion Flycatcher female perching: BirdFellow Productions

Vermilion Flycatcher female flying:  Jim Burns

Vermilion Flycatcher range map: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Vermilion Flycatcher male & female: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Sydney, wearing pierced-ear cross: Krista Ledbetter


Vol. 2, # 5 – The Vermilion Fly-Catcher (II)

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

Vermilion Flycatcher for Birds Illustrated, 1897



HICKETS along water courses are favorite resorts of this beautiful Fly-catcher, which may be seen only on the southern border of the United States, south through Mexico to Guatemala, where it is a common species. Mr. W. E. D. Scott notes it as a common species about Riverside, Tucson, and Florence, Arizona. Its habits are quite similar to those of other Fly-catchers, though it has not been so carefully observed as its many cousins in other parts of the country. During the nesting season, the male frequently utters a twittering song while poised in the air, in the manner of the Sparrow Hawk, and during the song it snaps its bill as if catching insects.

The Vermilion’s nest is usually placed in horizontal forks of ratana trees, and often in mesquites, not more than six feet from the ground; they are composed of small twigs and soft materials felted together, with the rims covered with lichens, and the shallow cavity lined with a few horse or cow hairs. Dr. Merrill states that they bear considerable resemblance to nests of the Wood Pewee in appearance and the manner in which they are saddled to the limb. Nests have been found, however, which lacked the exterior coating of lichens.

Three eggs are laid of a rich creamy-white with a ring of large brown and lilac blotches at the larger end.

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) Eggs ©WikiC

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) Eggs ©WikiC



VERMILION FLY-CATCHER.Pyocephalus rubineus mexicanus.

Range—Southern Border of the United States south through Mexico and Guatemala.

Nest—In forks of ratana trees, not more than six feet up, of small twigs and soft materials felted together, the rims covered with lichens; the cavity is shallow.

Eggs—Usually three, the ground color a rich creamy-white, with a ring of large brown and lilac blotches at the larger end.

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) by Margaret Sloan

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) by Margaret Sloan

Lee’s Addition:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18 NKJV)

But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? (Matthew 16:2-3 NASB)

Everytime I go to pronounce “Vermilion”, an extra “L” shows up and I say “million.” You have to admit that this beautiful bird looks like a “million.” This is another of the Lord’s fantastic birds.

For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. (Psalms 96:4-7 NASB)

The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is a small passerine bird in the Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers Family. Most flycatchers are rather drab, but the Vermilion Flycatcher is a striking exception. It is a favourite with birders, but is not generally kept in aviculture, as the males tend to lose their vermilion colouration when in captivity.

Vermilion Flycatchers generally prefer somewhat open areas, and are found in trees or shrubs in savannah, scrub, agricultural areas, riparian woodlands, and desert as well, but usually near water. Their range includes almost all of Mexico; it extends north into the southwestern United States, and south to scattered portions of Central America, parts of northwestern and central South America, and on southwards to central Argentina. They are also found in the Galapagos Islands.

The species grows to about 5-7 inches in length, and is strongly dimorphic; males are bright red, with dark brown plumage. Females have a peach-coloured belly with a dark grey upperside, and are similar to Say’s Phoebe. They frequently wag their tails. They have a bright red cap, throat and underparts with a black on an eyeline, back, wings and tail. Immatures are similar to females with varying amounts of red on the underparts. Females have brown underparts and their undertail coverts are tinged pink.

The flycatchers feed mostly on insects such as flies, grasshoppers and beetles. These are usually taken in mid-air, after a short sally flight from a perch.

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) Female on nest ©WikiC

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) Female on nest ©WikiC

They lay 2-3 whitish eggs in a nest made of twigs, stems and roots, and lined with hair. The eggs are incubated for around two weeks by the female and the young are ready to leave the nest 15 days after hatching.

Sounds both by Andrew Spencer at xeno-canto.org



Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) by Michael Woodruff

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) by Michael Woodruff



Besides the Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus);

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) by Dario Sanches

Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) by Dario Sanches

There are two more “Vermilion” birds:

Vermilion Tanager (Calochaetes coccineus) ©Nick Athanas

Vermilion Tanager (Calochaetes coccineus) ©Nick Athanas

Vermilion Tanager (Calochaetes coccineus)

237 Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus)

Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus) ©Flickr barloventomagico

Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus) ©Flickr barloventomagico

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources, with editing)

Next Article – The Lazuli Bunting

The Previous Article – The European Kingfisher

Sharing The Gospel


(Oops. Just realized this is a duplicate, but I added to it today. Keeping it.)