Western Wood-Pewee

A vocal but often overlooked forest songbird.

Belonging to the flycatcher family, the Western Wood-Pewee is a medium, nondescript bird of grayish coloration exhibiting a peaked, triangular crown, lighter throat, and dark bill. The wings are longer/thinner than other flycatchers, with two light wing-bars. No eye-ring is apparent.

Although they occur in a variety of habitats, they prefer coniferous forests, open woodlands, forest edges and forest streams. You often find them perched on middle to upper branches for easy mid-air capture of their predominant prey, flying insects. They are attracted to clearings and prefer inhabiting edges of thinned forests, which we recently observed during our Pagosa Springs forest monitoring community science project. Where mastication and prescribed fire treatment was evident (which may increase populations), we found many wood-pewees.

Wood-Pewees sing at dawn and dusk prior to other birds and the male defends nesting territories in doing so. The call—a harsh nasal pee-eer!—can often be heard throughout the day. The female most likely builds the nest (containing two to three whitish with lavender blotched eggs) on a horizontal branch 15-40 feet above ground. Incubation by the female is 12-13 days, with first flight at 14-18 days. Both parents feed the young. This flycatcher migrates to Colorado for the summer and is here from mid-May to mid-September, returning to the tropics for the winter. Habitat loss and degradation are contributing to population declines.

Bird of the Week is brought to you by Audubon Rockies and Weminuche Audubon Society.

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