The Master of Disguise (9/7/20) – Susan Hunter

We have been having an extraordinary migration season this fall with plenty of places to see so many warblers, shorebirds and flycatchers. But one species has fooled me at least three times in the past two weeks: the innocuous Western Wood-Pewee. It has flashed shades of yellow, white and gray that take on aspects of other birds for me. It disguised itself as an Olive-sided Flycatcher in the cloudy morning light of the La Cienega picnic area a week ago. After a hot hike in Tijeras Canyon, I mistook it for the Eastern Phoebe, because I wanted to see the phoebe badly. The bright belly reflected the green light of the trees and ponds at the 4 Hills County Club. This was a real birding mistake. Finally, the other day I wondered on “What’s This Bird” if it was a Willow Flycatcher, although I did have my doubts. Nope. When I saw the little guys on a high branch and the context was “correct” I had no problem with identification.
The lesson I have learned is that I will be calling out Pewee first from now on (and ask questions later). Dull brown back, pale feathers in front, heads turned away from me and shadows added to my confusion. Maybe I’ll remember this birding experience during next fall’s migration.

Western Wood-Pewees

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One Response to The Master of Disguise (9/7/20) – Susan Hunter

  1. Kathy Carson says:

    Interesting comparisons Susan. Thanks!

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