The Western Wood-Pewee is extremely similar to the Eastern Wood-Pewee in shape and plumage. Fortunately, their breeding ranges have nearly no overlap, and their voices are easy to tell apart. If you find a silent pewee outside of its normal range, it’s probably best left unidentified. Western Wood-Pewees tend to be darker throughout, but the ranges of variation of the two species overlap. The Western’s throat tends to be the same color as the sides whereas the Eastern’s is paler. The Western’s wings are dull black with grayish wingbars (in adults), thus reducing the amount of contrast within the wing typical of Eastern Wood-Pewee. Western Wood-Pewees tend to have nearly entirely dark bills. The Olive-sided Flycatcher is larger, with a larger head and a thicker and longer bill. The species has dusky wings and vague buffy wing bars giving the appearance of an even-colored wing. It also has darker sides than those of Eastern Wood-Pewee, with even darker streaking within, all contrasting much more strongly with the whitish running down the middle of the underparts. The tail of Olive-sided Flycatcher is comparatively shorter than the Eastern Wood-Pewee’s, and the wings are even longer. The shorter tail and bigger head gives Olive-sided Flycatcher a top-heavy appearance different from the sleeker look of Eastern Wood-Pewee. Of the Empidonax flycatchers, Willow Flycatchers are the most similar to Eastern Wood-Pewees because they too sport little or no eyering. However, they have greener heads and upperparts, pale sides, and wider and whiter wing bars, at least in adults. Acadian Flycatchers usually have obvious white eyerings and, in fresh autumn plumage, a yellow-tinged belly. Eastern Phoebes have darker brown upperparts, without wingbars. Their underparts tend to be cleaner white, without a vested look. The bill is narrower and mostly dark. Phoebes habitually bob their tails while they perch.
Like other flycatchers, pewees usually don’t come to feeders. They may visit wooded backyards or property adjacent to patches of forests or woodlands.
Find This Bird
The Eastern Wood-Pewee’s plaintive song of three sliding notes (pee-a-weeeee) is distinctive and easy to learn. It makes finding these woodland birds fairly straightforward. It helps that male Eastern Wood-Pewees are inveterate singers, belting out song nearly throughout the day. Look for small, olive-colored birds making sallies and watch such birds until they perch; Eastern Wood-Pewees pause frequently after sallying, which usually enables you to study them well.