The Eastern Wood-pewee is a small forest bird (15-16 cm). They have an olive-grey back, whitish-grey throat and breast, and their wings each have two white bars. They have a small, sharp beak which is perfect for catching flying insects. Eastern Wood-pewees are usually identified by their distinctive three-note call- “pee-ah-wee”, which the male will sing throughout the day during breeding season. Males and females are similar in appearance.
As with other flycatchers, the wood-pewee sits on branches and swoops down to catch insects, and returns to the same perch to eat. This behaviour is called “hawking” or “flycatching”. They may also eat insects off of lower vegetation. They eat a range of small flying insects including bees, wasps, beetles, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, and various flies.
Biology and Behaviour:
Adults arrive at their breeding grounds in May and quickly form pair bonds to build their nests. Nests are built on the branches of a tall tree, and are constructed out of grass, plant fibers, and lichen to keep them well-camouflaged. An average of 3 eggs are laid and incubated for about 12 days, and fledging occurs 16 to 18 days after hatching. The egg-laying period ends in mid-August, and then the Pewees prepare for their fall migration.
Potential predators include squirrels, blue jays, raptors, and raccoons. Young are more vulnerable, but nests are fairly well hidden so predation is less of a concern. Nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird is an issue for some nesters. One study found cowbird eggs in 5% of Eastern Wood-pewee nests.
- Eastern Wood-pewees look almost exactly like the Western Wood-pewee, but they have a different call. The two species do not have much overlapping territory, so if you are in Ontario, chances are you are seeing an Eastern Wood-pewee
- Pewees can be distinguished from Willow Flycatchers by their larger size, lack of eye rings, and more pointed wings
Conservation and recovery strategies:
Within federal lands (i.e. waterways and national parks), populations of Eastern Wood-pewee are being monitored, and there are efforts towards maintaining appropriate habitat. Across Canada the Wood-pewee is protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Forests that are managed on provincial land must follow the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. Since the Eastern Wood-pewee is listed as Special Concern in Ontario, no direct action is being taken to protect this species or their habitat, but they may benefit from protection of other Species At Risk in their habitats.
COSEWIC. 2012. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Eastern Wood-pewee Contopus virens in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. x + 39 pp. (www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/default_e.cfm).
Interested in learning more about birds? Check out our blogs!
Hummingbird Population Trends: What You Should Know Many North American bird populations are in decline, but does this include hummingbird species? This question was investigated in a recent research article …Read More
Keep Your Fur Child & Wildlife Safe (aka. Apocalypse Meow) We tend to love and dote upon our pets. We treat them as our children, and post photos of their silly …Read More