Thursday, September 5, 2013

A bird to watch for this month: Eastern Wood-Pewee

September is the peak month of passage for a migratory bird that often turns up in people's shade trees:  the Eastern Wood-Pewee.  They are much more common in fall than spring passage, so now is the time to keep an eye (and ear) open for them.  They will still be passing through in October, dwindling in the second half of the month.

Pewees are not brightly plumaged, but are appealing because they have lots of attitude.  They are small gray bird that habitually perches in the open on an exposed twig.  Pewees sally from their perches to snag bugs from mid air, often returning to the same perch.  Sometimes you can hear their bill snap shut on their prey.  They are usually at mid-level in a large tree, but can range higher or lower.  When there is another pewee nearby, they often vocalize a lot, and sometimes give chase.  Their vocalizations are various short slurred whistles (including peweeee- the source of its name) and hard "chip" notes.  They are pausing here en route to the tropics.

Although there are other species in our area that bear some resemblance to it, the Eastern Wood Pewee will be much more common and conspicuous than its look-alikes until mid-October, when the similar Eastern Phoebe arrives.

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