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Can anyone identify this small, greenish bird I saw in Sacramento, California, in May 2016? I tried using whatBird.com but wasn't able to come up with anything convincing.

It looks a little like a willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) or dusky flycatcher (E. oberholseri), but their heads don't seem so strongly two-coloured.

enter image description here
(Photo: own work; sorry about the not-great quality)

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  • $\begingroup$ It could be Eastern wood pewee. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_wood_pewee. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Nov 20 '16 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @SanjuktaGhosh Thanks but, going by the map at whatBird, it's about 2,100km too far west for that. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 20 '16 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ I see. I didn't go that far with the details. But Eastern wood pewee appeared similar. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Nov 21 '16 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ This bird looks similar. $\endgroup$ – Tyto alba Jan 5 '17 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ The lack of wing-bars and an eye ring would rule out a Least Flycatcher. Sacramento is also too far west of it's range. allaboutbirds.org/guide/Least_Flycatcher/id $\endgroup$ – JC11 Jan 6 '17 at 19:58
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enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

You probably found a Yellow Bellied Flycatcher, which is weird because they are mainly midwest.

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    $\begingroup$ I could be wrong, but to me the beak shape looks fairly different, as well as the beak and head coloration (which could be male/female differences, but I haven't heard of different beak shapes in relation to this). Generally I would say the beak in OPs picture looks wrong for a flycatcher. $\endgroup$ – skymningen Dec 13 '16 at 10:51
  • $\begingroup$ The above might be a young bird, with the yellow underside of beak. $\endgroup$ – LilVinny Dec 13 '16 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this can be it. The yellow lower beak seems to be quite characteristic of the yellow-bellied flycatcher, the head colouration seems wrong and it's so far from its expected range. But thanks for the suggestion -- I really appreciate it! $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Dec 14 '16 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ I am still checking different sources. $\endgroup$ – LilVinny Dec 15 '16 at 1:08
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Based on the location and picture, this looks like an American Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus). There are two cues I noticed that led me to this conclusion, the length of the tail relative to the body stands out and the behaviour as the bird is hanging upside down. Tits and Chickadees tend to hang upside down while foraging unlike other birds such as Flycatchers and Sparrows.

Other features that point towards bushtit are beak, legs, patterning on feathers, relative size of each feature in relation to each other. There is something that does seem off about the picture in the question and that is the amount of white overall in the bird. I found a post on Whatbird.com that talks about identifying a leusistic bushtit, which the bird in the picture may have attributes of. Leucism can have partial effects where only localized portions of the bird will be white.

You can find more information about Bushtits here.

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David Allen Sibley. (2003) The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this is quite right but I, too, was starting to think that the greenish appearance of my photo is because of the light reflecting off the tree leaves and not the true cloud of the bird. This bird has the darker colour action on the top of its head starting at the middle of the eyes, whereas mine has it starting higher up. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Jan 5 '17 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that the greenish hue to the bird can be an artifact of the lighting, the green leaves do look contrasting different than the back of the bird in your photo. Try looking at different photos of bushtits on google images to get an idea of how variable they can be. They exhibit regional differences in colour as they are not a migratory bird, some can have darker and more pronounced crowns. The supercilium (the area below the crown and above the eye) can be lighter in certain groups. I will add an image from a Bird ID guide to my answer to show the regional differences. $\endgroup$ – JC11 Jan 6 '17 at 13:55

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