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A photo of a Smoke-colored Pewee (Contopus fumigatus)
Smoke-colored Pewee

Smoke-colored Pewee

Contopus fumigatus

The smoke-colored pewee, Contopus fumigatus, is a bird of subtle elegance, cloaked in a uniform dusky-grey plumage. This species is a member of the Tyrannidae family, the tyrant flycatchers, which boasts the title of the largest family of birds on our planet. The smoke-colored pewee is distinguished by its slight crest and a grey coloration that is the very essence of its name.

Identification Tips

Adults of this species measure between 16-17 cm in size and weigh 18-20 grams. They exhibit no sexual dimorphism, with both sexes sharing the same plumage. Their beaks are a striking orange with a black culmen, and their feet are anisodactyl, the most common foot type in perching birds, with three toes pointing forward and one back. The upper body and wingtips may carry hints of olive or pale brown, and the crown is a darker grey with a crest. The throat, breast, and belly are a slightly paler grey, and the undertail-coverts are yellowish-white. Juveniles are lighter and browner, with a fringed buff at the nape and more pronounced wingbars.

Habitat

The smoke-colored pewee inhabits subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and areas of heavily degraded former forests. They are typically found at elevations ranging from 1000-2500 meters, occasionally reaching up to 3000 meters in the Andes or as low as sea level in southwest Ecuador.

Distribution

This species is endemic to South America, with a range that includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela.

Behaviour

The smoke-colored pewee is often observed perched on small branches at middle elevations, a behavior that sets it apart from its relative, the Blackish pewee. These birds are residents, meaning they do not partake in migration.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the smoke-colored pewee includes a loud "pip pip pip" and, at dawn, a "where-di-WIT… whew". A clear "peeew" whistle is also common, and less frequently, one may hear a hoarse "zur", a whistled "whueer", or short "pjeek pjeek" notes.

Breeding

Smoke-colored pewees produce altricial chicks that require considerable parental care. They build cup-shaped nests adorned with moss and lichen on high, horizontal branches. The white eggs are speckled with brown and lavender. Incubation lasts about 16 days, and nestlings fledge 21 days post-hatching. Both parents feed the chick, though only one constructs the nest. Breeding typically occurs during the drier months from September to December.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the smoke-colored pewee consists primarily of insects, which they catch using a foraging technique known as sallying. This involves capturing insects mid-air and returning to a perch to consume them, often using the same perch repeatedly.

Conservation status

The smoke-colored pewee is classified as Least Concern. It is a species that is fairly common to common within its range, which includes numerous protected reserves along the Andean range. The species is known for its adaptability to habitat disturbance.

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