This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the western wood-pewee.
Belonging to the flycatcher family, it is a small to medium, sparrow-sized, nondescript bird of gray/brownish coloration exhibiting a peaked, triangular crown, white throat, and dark bill. The wings are longer/thinner than other flycatchers, with two lighter wing-bars. No eye-ring is apparent.
Though existing in a variety of habitats, they prefer coniferous forests, open woodlands, forest edges and forest streams, and can be viewed perched on middle to upper branches for easy mid-air capture of their predominant prey, flying insects. They are attracted to clearings and prefer inhabiting edges of thinned forests, as observed recently during our Citizens Science Project. Where mastication and prescribed fire treatment was evident (which may increase populations), numerous wood-pewees were observed.
Habitat loss and degradation, at times involving cattle grazing in breeding and wintering grounds, may contribute to population declines.
Wood-pewees sing at dawn and dusk prior to other birds and the male defends nesting territories in doing so. The song/call is a harsh nasal “pee-eer.” The female most likely builds the nest (containing two to three whitish with lavender blotched eggs) on a horizontal branch 15-40 feet above ground. Incubation by the female is 12-13 days, with first flight at 14-18 days. Both parents feed the young.
This flycatcher migrates to Colorado for the summer and is here from mid-May to mid-September, returning to the tropics for the winter.
For information on local bird watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.