Common Name: Eastern
Eastern Phoebes are perching
birds in the family Tyrannidae which consists of Tyrant
Flycatchers. They have grayish-olive upperparts and a
dark head, wings and tail. They have a dark bill with a
pale throat that is whitish in the spring and yellowish
in the fall. Many times, Eastern Phoebes can be seen
wagging their tails. Eastern Phoebes are fairly common
and are about 7 inches (18cm) in size.
photos Michael Noonan
Eastern Phoebes live in
woodlands near streams, suburbs, farmyards and bridges
over small streams and rivers. Eastern Phoebes are one
of the earliest migrants to return and nest in the
northern United States and southern Canada. Their
breeding range extends from northern Canada to the
southeastern United States. There might areas within the
breeding range where Eastern Phoebes are absent due to
the lack of preferred nesting materials. Their
wintering grounds are mostly in the southeastern United
States, primarily around the Gulf Coast and extend into
Mexico. The range of Eastern Phoebes is currently
expanding as the construction of buildings and bridges
Eastern Phoebes eat mostly
flying insects. Most commonly they will be seen perching
on a telephone wire and leave in a short flight to
capture insects. During the fall, winter, spring and
unfavorable weather they will eat small fruits.
The courtship of the Eastern
Phoebe consists of short, erratic flight-chases and pair
formation is very rapid. They have a monogamous mating
system and usually have 2 broods per year. Eastern
Phoebes nest in many human-built structures, especially
under bridges, in culverts and well. The female will
build the nest. She will often renovate old nests,
especially those of barn swallows. The energetic cost of
having to renovate a nest correlates to a reduced clutch
size. Females will lay 4-5 white eggs and incubate them
for 16 days. The young are altricial when born which
means they are blind, helpless and immobile. Both sexes
will tend young until they are ready to leave the nest
about 15-16 days after hatching. Eastern Phoebes are
common victims to Brown-headed Cowbird brood parasitism.
They will build a new nest floor on top of Cowbird eggs.
The mnemonic for the song of
the Eastern Phoebe is fee-bee.
Where to see them in WNY
Eastern Phoebes are very
common in Forest Lawn Cemetery and in suburbs of WNY.