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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Eastern Wood-Pewee -- Contopus virens


RANGE: Breeds from southeastern Saskatchewan to southern Quebec and New Brunswick, south to Texas, the Gulf Coast, and central Florida, and west to the eastern Dakotas, central Oklahoma, and south-central Texas. Winters in South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Generally associated with deciduous forests; prefers woodlands with a relatively open understory but will use areas with a dense understory if the canopy above is incomplete or sparse. Also inhabits mixed forests, bottomlands, uplands, woodlots, orchards, parks, roadsides, and suburban areas planted to trees. Occurs in floodplain and river-bluff forests at the western edge of its range. Appears to be strongly associated with oaks, and throughout its range probably requires a predominance of hardwoods.

NEST: Locates nest on a horizontal limb usually well out from the trunk, 9 to 65 feet above the ground, often on a dead limb in a living tree. Camouflages nest with spiderwebs and lichens.

FOOD: Prefers to flycatch in a shady spot from mid to low level of the tree canopy. Eats insects, spiders, and millipedes, and also a few berries and seeds.

REFERENCES: Beal 1912, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979.


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