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Eastern Wood-Pewee

Contopus virens ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TYRANNIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The olive-brown Eastern Wood-Pewee is inconspicuous until it opens its bill and gives its unmistakable slurred call: pee-a-wee!—a characteristic sound of Eastern summers. These small flycatchers perch on dead branches in the mid-canopy and sally out after flying insects. Though identifying flycatchers can be confusing, pewees are grayer overall, with longer wings, than other flycatchers. They lack the eyerings of the Empidonax species, while they’re less brown (with stronger wingbars) than a phoebe. With a careful look they’re quite distinctive.

Songs

Male Eastern Wood-Pewees sing a distinctive, slurred pee-a-wee call from exposed perches to advertise their breeding territories. The call lasts about 1 second. The last note trails off; it carries a long way and is a distinctive sound of Eastern forests in summer. Pewees begin singing before sunrise, and you may hear them at almost any time of the day or night.

Calls

Eastern Wood-Pewees have several other calls including a terse chip note, a shrill peeee given when an intruder disturbs a pair at the nest, and short twittering notes during courtship and mating.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

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.

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