EASTERN WOOD PEWEE – (Contopus virens)
The Eastern wood pewee is part of the flycatcher family, and is mostly grey with darker wings, which have two white bands. The flanks are paler grey, and the belly whitish. The bill is dark grey on top and orange below. The tail is long but the legs are short. The overall length of this bird is around 15 cm (6 in.) There is a small crest at the back of the head. Sexes are similar. The wing bands in the juveniles are yellowish.
These birds have an upright posture and spend a good amount of time perched high in the forest canopy waiting for an insect to fly by, which they catch on the wing. They then most often return to the same perch.
As the English name implies, ‘pewee’ is an onomatopoeia for the bird’s song, ‘pee-a-wee’, with the first part descending and the last part ascending. The Latin word ‘contopus’ comes from the Greek and means ‘small feet’, and ‘virens’ refers to the green color.
The eastern wood pewee breeds on PEI and is common in spring and summer, but uncommon in the fall. The Maritimes region is situated at the northeast limit of this species’ breeding range, which covers the eastern half of the south part of Canada, and of the USA. It spends the winter in the northwest part of South America.
Conservation: as per COSEWIC, this bird is a species of ‘special concern’ due to a serious population decline over the last few decades. Possible causes include loss and/or degradation of habitat on the birds’ breeding and wintering grounds, loss of insect prey due to over-browsing by white-tailed deer and other ‘unknown’ causes.