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Species Guide

Tropical Pewee

Contopus cinereus

The Southern Tropical Pewee, scientifically known as Contopus cinereus, is a diminutive passerine belonging to the tyrant flycatcher family. This bird, with a length of 14 cm and a weight of merely 12 grams, is characterized by its dark brown or grey upperparts and a blackish crown. It boasts two distinct whitish wing bars, while its throat and breast center are whitish. The abdomen presents a pale yellow hue, and the sides of the flanks and breast are tinged with grey-brown. Notably, there is considerable variation in the darkness of the plumage, particularly in the nominate subspecies found in southeastern Brazil and adjacent regions, which can appear almost as dark as the Blackish Pewee.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Southern Tropical Pewee, look for the short beak with a black upper mandible and an orange lower mandible. Both sexes are similar in appearance, making sex differentiation a challenge based solely on plumage. The bird's whitish wing bars are a key feature to look for, as well as the contrasting pale yellow abdomen.


This species is typically found at the edges of forests and in cultivated areas that are graced with tall trees, which provide the necessary vantage points for their feeding habits.


The Southern Tropical Pewee breeds in the southern reaches of Brazil, extending through Paraguay and down to Argentina, showcasing a preference for warmer tropical climates.


With a penchant for perching on high watchpoints, the Southern Tropical Pewee is known to sally forth in pursuit of flying insects, often returning to the same exposed perch. This bird is also known for its boldness, defending its nest with vigor against intruders as large as the Great Kiskadee.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of this species includes a trilled "threeee" call and a sharp "weet." It is important to note that there are geographical variations in its voice, adding a layer of complexity to its identification by sound alone.


The female Southern Tropical Pewee is solely responsible for constructing the nest, which is a small open saucer made of fiber and grasses, lined with grass and adorned with lichen on the exterior. This nest is strategically placed in a tree fork or on a branch. She also incubates the typical clutch of two creamy-white eggs, marked with red-brown spots at the larger end, for a period of 15–16 days until hatching.

Similar Species

While there are no specific similar species mentioned, the Southern Tropical Pewee can be confused with other members of the genus Contopus or other small flycatchers. Careful observation of its distinct plumage and calls is necessary for accurate identification.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Southern Tropical Pewee consists primarily of flying insects, which it catches in mid-air during quick flights from its perching points.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List has classified the Southern Tropical Pewee as Least Concern, indicating that, currently, there are no immediate threats to its population numbers that would warrant a higher level of concern.

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Tropical Pewees on Birda


More Tyrant Flycatchers, Calyptura

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