Eastern Phoebe

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Eastern Phoebe
Photo by: 
Mary Nemecek

One of the earlier birds to arrive from the south is the Eastern Phoebe. They are small, dark birds, about the size of a Tufted Titmouse. Their back, wings, and tail are medium gray with a light belly and throat with a sooty chest. The Phoebe’s head and face are darker than its body. Males and females are identical, younger birds may have a yellow tint to their belly. When an Eastern Phoebe is perched, it will pump its tail up and down. Like all members of the Flycatcher family, they prey on flying insects. They fly out from a perch to catch the insect and frequently return to their starting place. They occasionally eat small fish or frogs. Their call is a not so melodious, buzzy, abrupt Fee Bee. Nests are often built on bridge support beams, on window ledges, rocky cliffs and outcroppings. The nests are made of mud and plant fibers usually lined with grass, feathers, or fur. The female does all the nest building, taking from three days to two weeks to complete the project. She usually lays four to five eggs that hatch in about 16 days. The young are ready to leave the nest in another 16 days. Joyce has Eastern Phoebes that nest on the back of her farm house. They build under her deck on a small ledge and raise two broods each summer. Mom or one of her daughters has done this every year for the past ten years!