Family Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Least Concern

Northern Scrub-flycatcher (Sublegatus arenarum)


French: Moucherolle des palétuviers German: Karibikstrauchtyrann Spanish: Mosquero matorralero norteño

Elaïnea [sic] arenarum


, 1863,

Punta Arenas, Costa Rica


All members of genus formerly treated as conspecific, but separated into three species on basis of voice and plumage. Present species differs from S. obscurior in its browner, less grey upperparts (1); purer, paler grey breast with slightly paler throat (1); yellower belly to vent (1); dawn song with a lower maximum frequency (2) and other variables#R, and daytime calls with much shorter note length (3); for differences from S. modestus see that species. Nominate race (perhaps with atrirostris) may be better treated as a separate species from others. Race tortugensis doubtfully distinct from pallens. Six subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. arenarum (Salvin, 1863) – Central American Scrub-flycatcher – Pacific slope of Costa Rica (Gulf of Nicoya, Golfo Dulce) and Panama (W Darién, Coiba I, Pearl Is).
  • S. a. atrirostris (Lawrence, 1871) – N Colombia (Sucre and Bolívar to La Guajira).
  • S. a. glaber P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1868 – Caribbean Scrub-flycatcher – N coast of Venezuela (including Margarita I and Patos I), Trinidad (including islands of Chacachacare and Monos) and N parts of the Guianas.
  • S. a. pallens J. T. Zimmer, 1941 – Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire).
  • S. a. tortugensis Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1946 – Tortuga I, off N Venezuela.
  • S. a. orinocensis J. T. Zimmer, 1941 – C Orinoco Valley in E Colombia (E Meta to Arauca and Vichada) and C Venezuela (Apure E to N Bolívar).
  • Descriptive notes

    13–15 cm; 10·5–15 g. Nominate race has narrow whitish supercilium, greyish-brown crown and upperparts; wings dusky grey, paler greyish to whitish wingbars... read more


    Dawn song a loud, repeated “pfweéé”; also widely spaced “phew!-dit... read more


    Mangroves and adjacent vegetation, including scrubby second growth. In N Venezuela (glaber... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food arthropods, including ants (Hymentoptera), caterpillars (Lepidoptera), small beetles (Coleoptera); small berries also frequently taken... read more


    Mar–Jun; stub-tailed young in Aug, Colombia. Nest a simple cup, 7·5 cm × 4 cm, placed 2–6 m up in fork of small... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to locally fairly common. In Panama, most abundant near coast and fairly common on several islands and in the Tocumen area; especially... read more

    Recommended citation

    Robbins, M. (2019). Northern Scrub-flycatcher (Sublegatus arenarum). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 November 2019).