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This is the second in a series of articles based on my trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. We had a fairly constant companion while enjoying the shaded pavilion at the marsh boardwalk. It was this Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens): UPDATED 7.22.08: Thanks to Laura for her comment suggesting that this might be an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe). I’ve checked around and the consensus is that Laura is right. Thanks!

I have to admit that I had to work pretty hard with my various field guides to identify this bird. That’s embarrassing – I should probably know this one. What would be more embarrassing is if after all of that, I’ve got it wrong. (Someone tell me if I’ve made a mistake!)

That’s a pretty tasty-looking cricket she’s got there!

In this picture I see how worn her tail feathers are. (I do not actually know if this bird is male or female.) One of the things that bird banders note while banding is the condition of the feathers, including wear. The Eastern Wood-Pewee is in the Flycatcher family (Tyrannidae ), and like most flycatchers, they dart from their perches to capture insects from mid-air. It looks like this sort of frequent flying can sure frazzle a girl’s tail feathers 🙂

I found this interesting bit of information about the Pewee’s population from Cornell’s Birds of North American Online:

Although still considered common in most of its range, this species declined significantly on its breeding grounds over the last 25 years, perhaps in part because of heavy browsing of forests by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

Usually the reasons noted for the decline of any wildlife species I have read about are directly related to humans or human activity. My guess is that the natural predators of the white-tailed deer have been drastically reduced by humans, thereby allowing greater numbers of deer in the forests. I have a friend who is a hunter, and he has told me hunters help control the population of deer, so their numbers do not increase to the point that they begin to starve. As I think about these things I find myself wishing the natural balance of our world’s ecosystems could somehow be restored. And then I’ll read about how some organization somewhere introduced this or that species of whatever to attempt to restore a “natural” balance…and you guessed it, things don’t go quite as planned.

So should we just do nothing? Go about our human business and leave wildlife and ecosystems alone? I don’t think that is the answer either. I can’t offer a solution, but I can offer my voice to raise awareness. Maybe together, the human race can discover how to share the Earth with other living things without destroying it. I suppose we may have to start with learning how to share it with one another. But I digress…

I’ll sign off by leaving you with this demure little Pewee, bashfully showing us her latest catch.

3 Responses to “Out on a limb – Eastern Wood-Pewee”

  • Laura:

    Could this be an Eastern Phoebe? He has a dark beak instead of black and orange like the Wood Pewee.

  • The Eastern Phoebe was my first guess, but when I saw the orange around the “corners” of her beak I wasn’t sure. This bird also did not move her tail around, which made me lean toward Wood Pewee. Still, I am very much still learning, so you very well could be right! Thanks for leaving a comment!!

  • I am at banding and just verified that this is indeed an Eastern Phoebe. Thanks for the correction 🙂

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