My Bantam Lake

Eastern Phoebe

Written on 07/03/2018


Sayornis phoebe

The Eastern Phoebe is a plump songbird with a medium-length tail. It appears large-headed for a bird of its size. The head often appears flat on top, but phoebes sometimes raise the feathers up into a peak. Like most small flycatchers, they have short, thin bills used for catching insects. They measure 14 to 17 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of 26 to 28 centimeters. The Eastern Phoebe is brownish-gray above and off-white below, with a dusky wash to the sides of the breast. The head is typically the darkest part of the upperparts. Birds in fresh fall plumage show faint yellow on the belly and whitish edging on the folded wing feathers. The Eastern Phoebe generally perches low in trees or on fencelines. Phoebes are very active, making short flights to capture insects and very often returning to the same perch. They make sharp “peep” calls in addition to their familiar “phoebe” vocalizations. When perched, Eastern Phoebes wag their tails down and up frequently. These birds favor open woods such as yards, parks, woodlands, and woodland edges. Phoebes usually breed around buildings or bridges on which they construct their nests under the protection of an eave or ledge. This species is of low conservation concern.

Fun Facts:

  • In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe's leg to track its return in successive years.\

  • The use of buildings and bridges for nest sites has allowed the Eastern Phoebe to tolerate the landscape changes made by humans and even expand its range. However, it still uses natural nest sites when they are available.

  • The Eastern Phoebe is a loner, rarely coming in contact with other phoebes. Even members of a mated pair do not spend much time together. They may roost together early in pair formation, but even during egg laying the female frequently chases the male away from her.

 

Source: Eastern Phoebe Overview and Identification Information, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Phoebe/overview