Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

How to identify wood-pewees

identify wood-pewees
Eastern Wood-Pewee, adult. May in Summit County, Ohio. Photo by Brian E. Small

In wooded areas coast to coast, throughout late spring and summer, some of the most characteristic sounds are the songs of wood-pewees. The sound changes abruptly at mid-continent because two species — Eastern and Western Wood-Pewees — divide the lower 48 states almost exactly in half, along a line extending from the Dakotas south to Texas.

These trim gray flycatchers tend to perch high, often among foliage, so they are heard more often than they are seen. That’s just as well because they are far more distinctive by sound than by sight. Both are relatively plain, a little larger than the tricky Empidonax flycatchers, with wing bars but no eye-rings. No diagnostic visual marks will help you tell them apart.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a BirdWatching member to access our first-rate articles and columns on bird ID and photography as well as quarterly webinars hosted by experts in the field.

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free
Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media