Bird’s ID – Eastern Phebe

Eastern Phoebe


The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) is a small passerine bird. This tyrant flycatcher breeds in eastern North America, although its normal range does not include the southeastern coastal United States.

It is migratory, wintering in the southernmost United States and Central America. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. This is one of the first birds to return to the breeding grounds in spring and one of the last to leave in the fall. They arrive for breeding in mid-late March, but they return to winter quarters around the same time when other migrant songbirds do, in September and early October; migration times have stayed the same in the last 100 years. The increase in trees throughout the Great Plains during the past century due to fire suppression and tree planting facilitated a western range expansion of the eastern phoebe as well as range expansions of many other species of birds.

This species appears remarkably big-headed, especially if it puffs up the small crest. Its plumage is gray-brown above. It has a white throat, dirty gray breast and buffish underparts which become whiter during the breeding season. Two indistinct buff bars are present on each wing. Its lack of an eye ring and wingbars, and its all dark bill distinguish it from other North American tyrant flycatchers, and it pumps its tail up and down like other phoebes when perching on a branch. The eastern phoebe’s call is a sharp chip, and the song, from which it gets its name, is fee-bee.

The breeding habitat of the eastern phoebe is open woodland, farmland and suburbs, often near water. This phoebe is insectivorous, and often perches conspicuously when seeking food items. It also eats fruits and berries in cooler weather.

It often nests on human structures such as bridges and buildings. Nesting activity may start as early as the first days of April. The nest is an open cup with a mud base and lined with moss and grass, built in crevice in a rock or man-made site; two to six eggs are laid. Both parents feed the young and usually raise two broods per year. The eastern phoebe is occasionally host to the nest-parasitic brown-headed cowbird


Photo Gallery



© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

19 thoughts on “Bird’s ID – Eastern Phebe

  1. I finally learned the meaning of “passerine.” And, I recognized that this lovely phebe is related to our scissortail-flycatchers. I really enjoyed this one.

  2. Lovely and informative post about your eastern phoebe, HJ. We have the western out here, and I was just marveling this week at how wonderful it is to have the phoebe around so much. Great photos.

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