About The Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe, commonly known as Eastern Phoebe is among the earliest spring migrants. These sparrow-sized creatures are medium-sized flycatchers which have gray-brown, olive feathers above and whitish ones below. They lack eye rings and wing bars. They are similar to Eastern Wood Pewees, but they lack the species’ wing bars and orange lower mandible. Male or female sexes are alike. Juveniles have browner upperparts than the adults and have buffy wing bars which disappear as it grows. The size of an adult phoebe is 6” to 7” long.

The Eastern Phoebe Nesting Preferences

Eastern Phoebe nests ledges, usually sheltered above by an overhang: under bridges, culverts, or eaves of buildings, on cliffs, rock bluffs or in ravines near water. The nest is an open cup of mud and moss lined with fine grasses, stems, and hair cemented with mud to a wall near a cliff, ceiling or building eave. They normally reuse nests of their own species or another. They also often build over old eggs or dead young. The female bird alone builds their nests and incubates their young as they often chase the male away from the nesting site. Female lays 2 to 6 white eggs with little gloss and seldom spotted with few reddish-brown dots on one end. On average, eastern phoebes raise 2, sometimes 3 broods a year.

Building a Birdhouse For The Eastern Phoebe

Eastern phoebes are attracted to shelves around buildings, under bridges or in any overhanging structure. They are not used to nest in manmade birdhouses, but they are apt to reusing old nests. Hence, the possibility of using an artificial nest or birdhouse would still attract them as long as their preferences are acquired. A simple box made of boards or barks and twigs can be assembled and fixed to desired overhanging places. Their nests must be built with cover overhead. An entrance hole placed below the box should be ½ inches in diameter to allow the birds to comfortably fly in and out of it. It is important to note that the chosen location should be suitable for their habitat and free from unwanted predation.

The Eastern Phoebe Mating Habits

Eastern Phoebes are generally monogamous but some male birds will sometimes mate with a second female during the same breeding season. This is primarily because, the first male Phoebe is still feeding their young, thus, allows an unguarded female to mate with another male as she begins a second nesting. Males use vocalizations to announce territory, and more often to attract a mate. Early mornings, during the males pre-dawn song, the female initiates copulation. Nest-building begins immediately after pairs are formed, which helps them create their own territory. Female birds choose the nest site.

The Eastern Phoebe Feeding Preferences

As a Flycatcher, eastern phoebes obtain food by capturing insects in flight. It is done from a perch less than 10 meters off the ground. They actively forage usually early in the morning. Occasionally, they eat small fish and frogs. During winter, they shift their diets to berries. Male phoebes are responsible for feeding their young.

Interesting Eastern Phoebe Facts

In history, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America around year 1800’s. John James Audubon tracked its return in successive years, when he attached silvered thread to the bird’s leg.