Photo Credit: Dave Cagnolatti & Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation
http://www.weeksbay.org

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Contopus virens
 
STATUS: Breeder. Common to fairly common in spring, summer, and fall in all regions. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.
 
DESCRIPTION: A neotropical migrant, the Eastern wood-pewee is found in the family of birds Tyrannidae. These tyrant flycatchers are a very large group of birds. Adult wood-pewees range in size from 6 to 6.55 inches, with males scarcely larger than females. Weights range from 1/3 to 2/3 of an ounce. Their wingspan normally approaches 10 inches. Both males and females have gray/olive backs with lighter colored bellies and 2 light collored wing bars. The base of their lower bills is often yellow. Juveniles resemble adults, but have more muted coloration. Common vocalizations heard include a slurred "pee-ah-wee" as they say their name, and a melancholy "wee-ooo" or "wee-ur."
 
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range of the wood-pewee is the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada from the Great Plains East to the Atlantic, and from Texas and Florida, North to southern Canada. Wood-pewees overwinter in northern parts of South America.
 
HABITAT: Eastern wood-pewees utilize a wide array of forests. In the south they are known to use hardwood and pine forests, while they are often found along openings in forests as well. 
 
FEEDING HABITS: While perched, pewees will make hawk-like flights to catch flying insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, bees, etc. which make up their main food sources. They will also eat small berries occasionally. 
 
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: More detailed information is needed on the mating habits of this species, but during courtship males will feed females. Chases have also been recorded during courtship. Nests are shallow cups of grass, weeds, twigs, etc. and lined with moss, hair, or plant fibers. Nests are usually found on horizontal limbs away from the tree trunk. Clutch sizes range from 2 to 4 eggs. Females incubate eggs for 12 to 13 days, while the males feed them. Hatchlings are altricial, or born helpless and requireing parental care. Nestlings are brooded for 4 to 5 days while both parents feed them. Nestlings fledge, or leave the nest, around 16 to 18 days, but are still cared for by the parents for an unknown time. 
 
Eastern wood-pewee populations have declined over time, possibly due to habitat loss. Numbers may be reduced in areas of high white-tailed deer populations because of over browsing of plant species that make up the understory and midstory layers that are preferred by these birds.  
 
REFERENCES: 
A Field Guide to the Birds - Eastern Land and Water Birds. 1934. Roger Tory Peterson Ed. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston MA. 230 pp.
 
North Carolina Wild, Wildlife Profiles. 2000. Mark Johns, Partners in Flight Coordinator, NC Wildlife Resource Commission.
 
 
 
Author: Richard Tharp, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries