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Subject:[mou-net] Western Wood-Pewee update
From:Kim R Eckert <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kim R Eckert <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 23 Jun 2009 07:03:51 -0600

Since there has been nothing posted since June 19 about the possible/ 
probable Western Wood-Pewee(s) found that afternoon at Gary Pines  
Wayside a mile N of Gary along Hwy 32 in Norman Co, here is a summary  
of what has been seen and heard. (Sorry for the delay, but this is the  
first day since the original sighting that I've had both internet  
access and the time to post anything about this.)

First of all, the birds were still present yesterday, June 22. Bob  
Dunlap saw/heard them then and on
June 21, and several birders found them on the 20th. The location has  
been in the tall pine stands ~100 yards W of the wayside's picnic  
shelter on the W side of Hwy 32.

On June 19, my Minn Birding Weekends (MBW) group saw and heard at  
least one wood-pewee giving Western-like call notes, but heavy rain  
showers at the time were making viewing/listening conditions  
difficult, and after an hour or so of this most of the group left. It  
finally stopped raining around 6:00 pm, and Ron Erperlding, George  
Vania, and I were able to more easily see or hear at least 4 wood- 
pewees during the next half hour. Here are the wood-pewees in the  
order in which we encountered them:

Bird 1 - heard-only; gave both parts of a typical Eastern-like song:  
i.e., the clear, whistled, rising "pee-a-weee" and the descending,  
whistled "pee-ur"; no reason to think this was anything but an Eastern

Bird 2 - gave 2 distinctly different vocalizations; usually (75-80% of  
the time) it gave a burry, nasal, hoarse, rising-in-pitch "brree", a  
call note which is entirely consistent with Western, and unlike  
Eastern; however, part of the time it also gave an Eastern-like call/ 
song, except it was abruptly truncated: "pee-a-w", with the third  
syllable basically missing

Bird 3 - easily seen as it perched in the open for several minutes,  
but it remained totally silent during the entire time; several photos  
taken, but species unknown

Bird 4 - repeatedly gave the same Western-like "brree" call note as  
Bird #2, and no other vocalizations

We did not hear any of the wood-pewees give the standard, Western  
song: i.e. a burry, nasal, hoarse, dropping-in-pitch "beeerr"; as far  
as I know, none of the observers on June 20 heard such a song either.  
However, Bob Dunlap sent me the following about one of the wood-pewees  
he heard on June 22, which sounds like it may have been the actual  
Western song: "heard but not seen, perhaps 10 yards behind other  
pewees, twice in one minute, a downslurred, nasal 'dreee-er' was heard".

Some observers (including Bob on June 22 and Tony Hertzel on June 20)  
saw/heard a total of 5 wood-pewees, with presumably a second singing  
Eastern present. I would urge that all observers send an account of  
what they saw/heard to mou-net, or to me privately, or to MOURC chair  
Peder Svingen, so we can attempt to sort out what is there.

Note that I did not include here a description of any of the visual  
field marks we saw, since out-of-range wood-pewees are generally  
regarded as safe to ID in the field only when vocalizing; silent wood- 
pewee ID would need to involve a netted, banded, and measured  
individual or a specimen. However, if you go to view the Norman County  
wood-pewees, it is definitely worth taking careful notes especially on  
the lower mandible color, the relative boldness of each wing bar, and  
the darkness of the sides of the underparts.

More importantly, field recordings need to be made of the  
vocalizations of these possible Western Wood-Pewees (or hybrids, or  
whatever they are), in order to adequately document this occurrence.  
As far as I know, no one yet has been able to obtain any recordings of  

One excellent source of recorded wood-pewee sounds can be found on the website. The Western Wood-Pewee is at < 
 >, and the 9th track on this page is the best track of what we heard  
on June 19. The Eastern Wood-Pewee is at < 

Hope this helps. Other than than our wood-pewee ordeal, it was a  
relatively uneventful MBW tour!

Kim Eckert


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