- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular summer resident and migrant, the Eastern Wood-Pewee was common during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
Found throughout the eastern United States and southern Canada as far west as southeastern Alberta, western Nebraska, and central Texas. Highest densities have been found in southwestern Missouri and central Tennessee (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 10/20 by Partners in Flight.
Long-distance migrant, overwintering in northwestern and western South America.
Flying insects that are captured by sallies from a perch; occasionally gleans from foliage.
Cup nest placed on a branch of a tree or saplings in the subcanopy or canopy. Species is known to use a wide variety of deciduous and coniferous tree species.
In 1932, Roberts described the Eastern Wood-Pewee simply as “a common summer resident, breeding throughout the state.” He included nesting records from Fillmore (nest with one egg), Goodhue (nest with eggs), Hennepin (nests with eggs), Houston (several nests), Isanti (nest), and Wabasha (2 nests each with one fresh egg), all counties in the southeast. Farther north the only nest records Roberts reported were from Cass County (nest with eggs) and Itasca State Park (feeding young). He commented that the “nest is a frail but beautiful structure” but “difficult to see from the ground as it rises but little above the limb on which it rests and has the entire outside covered with bits of lichen, bark, and spider-web, like the nest of a Hummingbird.” Hence, confirmation of nesting can require a substantial effort when the nest is placed high in the canopy.
Green and Janssen (1975), more than 40 years later, similarly described the Eastern Wood-Pewee’s summer distribution, reporting that the species is a “resident throughout the state” and “frequents groves on the prairie.” Several years later, Janssen (1987) echoed the species’ statewide distribution but noted the Eastern Wood-Pewee was least common in the southwest. He confirmed nesting since 1970 in 23 counties from Rock County in the southwest to Houston County in the southeast, northwest to Pennington County and northeast to St. Louis County. Hertzel and Janssen (1998) included confirmed nesting in five additional counties for a total of 27 counties but excluded Clearwater County, which was previously included by Janssen in 1987.
The Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) recorded 1,932 breeding season locations in its county surveys. The MBS included Eastern Wood-Pewee breeding observation locations from every county in the state the survey has sampled except Clay County in western Minnesota.
The MNBBA identified 3,018 breeding records for the Eastern Wood-Pewee from 40.3% of all surveyed blocks (1,911/4,746) and 55.2% of priority blocks (1,289/2,337) (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). Nesting was confirmed in 43 counties, probable nesting in 38 counties, and possible nesting in an additional 5 counties (Figure 3; Table 1). The only county with no records was Pipestone County in the southwestern corner of the state. The extensive distribution of the Eastern Wood-Pewee observed during the MNBBA and the number of confirmed nesting records are a strong tribute to the diligence of Minnesota’s atlas observers, since documentation of nesting activity is not an easy task.
The probability map for the Eastern Wood-Pewee emphasizes the statewide distribution of the species but especially its presence in the broad ecotone between the coniferous forests in the northeast and the agricultural/grasslands of the western, southwestern, and southern portions of the state (Figure 4). Highest densities were predicted in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province, and more specifically in the Hardwood Hills Subsection and in floodplain forests of the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries.
The overall breeding distribution of the Eastern Wood-Pewee likely has not changed substantially in Minnesota over the past 100-plus years. With almost a 50% loss of forests in the state, its breeding population has undoubtedly declined. McCarty’s (1996) review of the Eastern Wood-Pewee in North America also described no changes in this species’ distribution since those described by Bendire in 1895.
Both Michigan and Wisconsin, during their breeding bird atlases, reported that Eastern Wood-Pewees were breeding throughout their states (Cutright et al. 2006; Chartier et al. 2013). Michigan did not detect changes from its first to its second atlas, whereas Ontario noted a few regions where the Eastern Wood-Pewee had declined from its first atlas (1981–1985) to its second atlas (2001–2005). Overall there was no change across the province (Cadman et al 2007).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.