In Bulgaria, one can find the Collared Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Semicollared Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher and the Red-breasted Flycatcher. In recent years, the breeding of the Semicollared, Spotted and the Red-breasted Flycatcher has been definitely proven. However, their distribution has not been fully studied and we expect to find many more new localities, especially of the rarer Semicollared and Red-breasted flycatchers. The habitat model of the Semicollared Flycatcher, for example, shows that the species can be found in more than the already identified sites (Georgiev et al., 2018). This is confirmed by its discovery in new habitats after the publication of the Atlas of Nesting Birds in 2007. The Collared Flycatcher has been found breeding in neighbouring Serbia, but for Bulgaria, there is no recent data on confirmed breeding, although it was observed during the breeding season. The European Pied Flycatcher, established as nesting in Bulgaria in the past, is also a riddle, but now the border of its breeding range is in Romania.
Their black and white plumage easily differentiates the typical adult males of the three “colourful” flycatchers found in our country (the Collared Flycatcher, the Semicollared Flycatcher, and the European Pied Flycatcher). While the continuous white collar of the Collared Flycatcher leaves no doubt about the species of the bird when seen, two other features distinguish the Semicollared Flycatcher from the European Pied Flycatcher. The well-defined horizontal white patch in the upper part of the folded wing is typical for the Semicollared Flycatcher, while in the European Pied Flycatcher it is missing or at most may be thinner, faint and indistinct. Helpful for determining these two species is the size and location of the white patch, which stands obliquely, isolated from the middle of the wing to its outer edge, and is part of the base of some of the primary flight feathers. In the Semicollared Flycatcher it is wider and goes almost to the end of the wing, while in the case of the European Pied Flycatcher it is considerably narrower and it is clear that it ends well before this.
The described features are characteristic of adult males, and may vary in one-year-olds. The deep black colour in the flight feathers, identical with the colour of the upper side of the bird, indicates that it is an already fully mature male bird, whereas last year’s hatched birds are dark brown there. Non-typical males exist, with plumage similar to females, but the large white spot on the forehead distinguishes them from the latter. These males, as well as the females and the young birds of the three species, are difficult to be determined in the field and should be documented.
As with most forest birds, if you learn the songs of flycatchers, you shall find them easier, although their songs are relatively quiet, which may be the reason why they are easily missed among the numerous spring bird “chorus” in the forest. Look for them in old forests or those with hollow trees, wait longer, listening to their trills. When seeing “colourful” flycatchers of any sex and age, a more detailed examination of the bird is needed, and if there is any hesitation about its species, it is recommended to make audio, video or photo documentation. The Red-breasted Flycatcher can be found mainly in beech forests, including eastern beech, while Semicollared Flycatcher is often found in oak and riparian forests. If you are lucky enough to find the Collared Flycatcher or the European Pied Flycatcher during the breeding season, be sure to photograph them, this shall be an ornithological discovery that needs proof. Keep in mind, however, that all five species are not uncommon during migration and can be seen in a variety of habitats.