Monday, June 13, 2011

In the backyard... Western Wood-Pewee

Western Wood-PeweeWestern Wood-Pewee, Trout Creek, Deschutes Co., Oregon, 5 August 2005 by Greg Gillson.


The Western Wood-Pewee is widespread throughout the West.

As with most flycatchers, it sits upright and motionless on an exposed twig. When an insect flies by, the bird sallies out and chases it, often clicking its bill several times during the chase. Once it catches its prey, it often returns back to the same or nearby perch.

It has the prototypical flycatcher shape--the head is large and slightly crested. The bill is quite wide and flat, but this is only obvious when viewed from directly below.

On a perched pewee the primaries are very long and pointed. The tail also looks quite long. This flycatcher has wide buffy wing bars, but lacks an eye ring. Smaller Empidonax flycatchers (Willow, Dusky, etc.) have both eye rings and wing bars. Even though larger than these other flycatchers, it is only 6-1/4 inches long--the length of a junco. It is much smaller than than some other flycatchers, such as Say's Phoebes and Western Kingbirds, for instance.

These birds arrive in the Pacific NW in mid-May, after there are many larger flying insects to eat. They remain into late September before migrating south. They winter farther south than most Neotropical migrants in the West, to Colombia and Venezuela.

These flycatchers are found in open woods, preferably deciduous trees, thus most likely to be found in mature trees in residential areas. They avoid breeding in sage, grasslands, and dense conifers.

Their voice is loud: a plaintive, drawn out, slightly buzzy descending pee-year and a similarly burry rising weep.