Western Wood-Pewee

Contopus sordidulus
Range Map

The Western Wood-Pewee is often found conspicuously perched in the woodlands of Western USA, from Texas, west to California, and north to Alaska and the prairies of Canada. In winter, these birds abandon the North American continent and fly to northwestern South America.

The nearly identical Eastern Wood-Pewee’s range does not overlap the range of these western cousins except for a small region in the Great Plains. Their songs are quite different and are a reliable means to tell them apart.

Today, taxonomists call out four subspecies of Western Wood-Pewee:

  • C. s. saturatus breeds from southeastern Alaska south through British Columbia to western Oregon. They spend winters in Colombia and Venezuela.
  • C. s. veliei breeds from eastern Alaska south into northern Mexico. They probably spend winters in Peru, Bolivia, and northern Argentina.
  • C. s. peninsulae breeds in southern Baja California (Mexico). They probably spend winters in northwestern South America.
  • C. s. sordidulus breeds in Mexico and Central America. They spend winters in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

The western USA has provided me with rewarding encounters with Western Wood-Pewees. I’ve met them in California, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and New Mexico. I find these birds accommodating to my efforts to capture images. While some flycatcher, such as the Olive-Sided Flycatcher, often remain at the highest of perches, Western Wood-Pewees like to forage in mid-canopy. This makes it easier on the photographer.

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