Is That a Phoebe or Pewee Calling?

Eastern Phoebes and Wood-Pewees are vocal birds. Here's how to tell them apart by their songs.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

This brisk whistle belongs to a bird named for its song — the Eastern Phoebe. It repeats its name each time it sings, so it’s a pretty straightforward voice to identify and remember.

The Eastern Phoebe is one of the most familiar flycatchers east of the Rockies. They often nest very close to people, under the eaves, in barns, or under bridges. They’re one of the very earliest migrants to return north in spring. And they sing…a lot.  

But there’s another flycatcher that whistles its name over and over: 

It’s the Eastern Wood-Pewee — or just “pewee” for short — common in leafy forests east of the Rockies. This one’s more often heard than seen, and it wouldn’t be unusual to hear a pewee and a phoebe at the same spot. 

With careful listening, though, you can tell them apart by their different singing styles. The phoebe’s a little more energetic. The pewee’s a bit more plaintive.

You can share this show with a friend when you come to birdnote.org. I’m Michael Stein. 

Support for BirdNote comes from the Port Aransas Tourism Bureau. Home to hundreds of species of birds and the Whooping Crane Festival in February. More at VisitPortAransas.com.



Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Eastern Phoebe [61890] recorded by William W H Gunn; Eastern Wood-Pewee [191122] recorded by W L Hershberger.

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org    Oct 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein

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