South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Eastern Wood-pewee

Contopus virens

Length: 6.25 inches Wingspan: 10.5 inches Seasonality: Summer/Migrant
ID Keys: Plain, with very faint wing-bars, and no eye-ring, two-tone bill.

Eastern Wood-pewee - Contopus virensThe Eastern Wood-Pewee is a relatively plain gray bird with few distinguishing marks, and is often only safely identified from similar Flycatchers by it's voice and range.  The Western equivalent, the Western Wood-Pewee, looks almost exactly alike.  Fortunately, Wood-pewees are typically quite vocal, more often heard than seen, but the vocal nature of the species greatly aids identification in comparison to other flycatchers.  Eastern Wood-pewees are normally only found in the eastern part of South Dakota, with Western Wood-Pewees in the west, so location is also an excellent method for distinguishing species in South Dakota.

Habitat: Prefers deciduous forest during the summer breeding season, although they will also use mixed forest.  They are normally found in and around forest openings and edges.  They winter along forest edges and scrubby forest in the tropics.

Diet: Feeds almost exclusively on insects, especially flying insects.  Will also occasionally eat berries.

Behavior: Normally feeds in typically flycatcher fashion, observing from a perch, and flying out to snag insects in mid-air once they're spotted.  They will also hover near vegetation and pick off insects on foliage.

Nesting: June and July.  The nest of an Eastern Wood-Pewee is a cup of grasses, sedges, and spider webs, with the outside sometimes covered with lichens.  The female usually lays 3 eggs, and she alone incubates them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young fledge after a little more than 2 weeks.

Song: Distinctive slow pee-a-wee with 2nd note lower.  Click here to listen to Eastern Wood-Pewee song.

Migration: Summers throughout the eastern half of the United states and southeastern Canada.  Winters in South America. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Eastern Wood Pewee sightings

Similar Species: Western Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe

Conservation Status: Still common in many locations, but has apparently undergone a slight decline in recent decades.  The IUCN lists the Eastern Wood-Pewee as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Eastern Wood-Pewee

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds" - Eastern Wood-Pewee

3) Eastern Wood-Pewee

Photo Information: June 2nd, 2005 -- Perry Nature area just east of Sioux Falls -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Eastern Wood-pewee photos.


Click on the map above for a higher-resolution view
Eastern Wood-pewee - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant and summer resident in the southeastern part of the state, less common elsewhere in the East.  Accidental in the western part of the state.