Legatus leucophaiuspiratic flycatcher

Geographic Range

Piratic Flycatchers, Legatus leucophaius, are most commonly found in Mexico and from northern Argentina to southern Brazil. They often migrate to Costa Rica between the months of January and February. Piratic Flycatchers overwinter in southern Brazil and Argentina between the months of September and March.

(Elizondo, 2000; Land, 1970)


Piratic Flycatchers frequently occupy the semi-open country, cultivated areas with tall trees, and the forest edge. These birds are hard to observe since they remain high up in the trees. In Costa Rica, Piratic Flycatchers reside on secondary savannahs or coffee plantations.

(Elizondo, 2000; Land, 1970)

Physical Description

Piratic Flycatchers range in length from 14.5 to 15 cm (5.7 to 5.9 in) and are about 26 g (.9 oz) in weight. Adult Piratic Flycatchers have a dark olive green or brown coloring with a semi-colored patch of yellow on their bodies and dusty colored cranial regions. These birds have wings with pale yellow edgings and slightly lighter colorings than the body. The tail of the Piratic Flycatchers are dark cinnamon, almost black in color. They have a whitish throat which ultimately turns yellow as it moves down toward the lower belly. Brown striping is evident on the breast. The bill of the Piratic Flycatchers are broad at the base and short in length. These flycatchers possess a whitish line above the eyes, along the lower part of the head. When young, the Piratic Flycatchers are similar in color, but have less streaking on their breasts and have lighter color edging on the wings.

(Ffrench, 1973) (Stiles and Skutch, 1989) (Dunning, 1993)

  • Range mass
    19 to 31.5 g
    0.67 to 1.11 oz
  • Average mass
    26 g
    0.92 oz
  • Range length
    14.5 to 15 cm
    5.71 to 5.91 in


Piratic Flycatchers breed between the months of February and August. They wait till other flycatchers construct their nests, then force them to abandon the area. These nests are located high up in trees. Piratic Flycatchers annoy their victims to the point of distraction, remove any remaining eggs that inhabit the nest, and utilize the nest for their needs. They annoy their victims by entering the nests numerous times during the day and bothering the birds. Piratic Flycatchers rarely attack their victims, but rather provoke fights. The nests which the Piratic Flycatchers inhabit are enclosed and have a dome shape to them. These birds frequently add leaves to the nests to aid in cushion and warmth.

Piratic Flycatchers usually lay 2 to 3 eggs at one time; occasionally up to as many as 4 eggs. The eggs are a dark brown color and have scattered black spots on them. Subtle black lines are also present on the larger end of the egg. The eggs range in size from 16 to 22.5 mm (.6 to .8 in.). Female Piratic Flycatchers incubate alone for a period of 15 to 16 days. After 18 to 20 days, the young Piratic Flycatchers leave the nest and begin a life of their own. From this point on, the young birds do not rely on their parents for food or shelter.

(Schmalz, 2001; Ffrench, 1973; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

  • Breeding season
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 4
  • Range time to hatching
    15 to 16 days
  • Range fledging age
    18 to 20 days

When the young hatch, the female provides warmth for them and they are fed evenly by both parents.


Piratic Flycatchers exist high up in trees and are rarely visible to people. One or two are seen at a time in a specific area; they travel in pairs and are rarely ever alone while traveling or during breeding season. Male Piratic Flycatchers often sit in trees and sing songs during the heat of the day. (Elizondo, 2000; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Piratic Flycatchers are omnivores which feed mostly on insects. They gather berries that will later be used for nutritional purposes and feed on green catkins of Cecropia. The insect that Piratic Flycatchers mainly prey on are dragonflies. These birds wait on exposed tree limbs till they notice prey, then fly out to attack.

(Stiles and Skutch, 1989; Land, 1970)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • flowers


Though little research has been conducted on the Piratic Flycatcher concerning predation, we can assume that small treee snakes and other species that live high up in the trees are its predators.

Conservation Status

This species is not endangered at the present time.


Kaitlin MacChesney (author), Fresno City College, Carl Johansson (editor), Fresno City College.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


Cockle, A. 1997. "Piratic Flycatcher" (On-line). Accessed October 12, 2001 at http://members.tripod.com/~tbrc/piratic.htm.

Dunning, J. 1993. CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, Inc..

Elizondo, L. 11/30/2000. "Legatus leucophaius" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://www.inbio.ac.cr/bims/ubi/aves/ubiespejo/ubiid=2743&-find.html.

Ffrench, R. 1973. A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Wynnewood, Pennsylvania: Livingston Publishing Company.

Grzimek, B. 1973. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia - Volume9 Birds 3. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Land, H. 1970. Birds of Guatemala. Wynnewood, Pennsylvania: Livingston Publishing Company.

Perrins, D., D. Middleton. 1985. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York, NY: Facts on File Publications.

Ridgely, ., G. Tudor. 1994. The Birds of South America. Austin, TX: Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor.

Schmalz, G. 2005. "Nests and the Nesting Season" (On-line). Accessed November 28, 2001 at http://g.schmalz.home.comcast.net/nestsandthenestingseason.htm.

Stiles, G., A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithica, New York: Comstock Publishing Associate.

Terres, J. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Brids. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..