The Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe

The Eastern Phobe is a member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family. There are 36 species of flycatchers they are known for their aerial display while catching flying insects. Eastern Phoebes are native to eastern North America, but not the southeastern coast of the United States. They migrate south from the Ohio River to the Gulf coast. They are one of the first migratory songbirds to arrive in the spring and the last to leave in the fall. Their habitats are near water sources, farms, woodlands, brush areas and the Great Swamp.

The Eastern Phoebe is easily identified by its tail wagging and and the soft fee-bee song. The bird is about 6 inches long with a wingspan 11-12 inches. The male and females both have a thin black bill, dark eyes and black legs. They have a black-gray face, the upper part of their body is a pale gray, the throat, chest and under parts of the body are off white. The wings are darker with white edges and the tail is dark and square at the end. Both female and male have the same coloring.

During mating season the male begins singing early in the morning, The female chooses the male and together they create their territory. They build their nests on stream banks and rock outcropping where there is protection and shelter.  They also like to build their nests in culverts, barns and under bridges. The female chooses the nesting site and builds the nest. The nest may take as long as 14 days to build. The nest has a base of mud constructed with grass, moss, leaves and is lined with animal hair. The nest is about 5 inches across and 2 inches deep. The nest is sometimes reused and another nest is built on top of the old one.

The female incubates the eggs for about 16 days. The average numbers of eggs laid are 4 to 6 white eggs with dots of reddish brown. Both parents care for the young. The hatchlings leave the nest after about 20 days. They raise 2 broods per year. The male may have two mates and he helps feed both nests of offspring. The lifespan is about 9 years.

The Eastern Phoebe perches on a low branch or post watching for flying insects. When spotted they catch them in mid-air. They then return to the perch. They can also hover and pick the insects off of foliage or on the ground.  Their diet consists mostly of insects such as flies, bees, beetles, butterflies, ticks, millipedes, and spiders. In the colder months they will eat berries.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

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