Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe

Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis pubescent Atlanta, GA - Peachtree Park - December 7, 2013

Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis pubescent

Eastern Phoebes are here year round.  Like the Great Crested Flycatcher, it’s a member of the Tyrant Flycatcher family which includes, among many others, the Vermilion Flycatcher and the Eastern Kingbird.

In North America, most flycatchers are associated with a “sallying” feeding style, where they fly up to catch an insect directly from their perch and then immediately return to the same perch. [6]   We watched an Eastern Phoebe establish a perch on a limb a few feet out in a pond and make endless loops back to the same perch, catching insects the whole time.

Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA - January 12, 2014

Eastern Phoebe on hi sperch
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

The Eastern Phoebe breeds in eastern North America, although its normal range does not include the southeastern coastal United States.  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. [1]

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 buff 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.

Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - December, 2015

Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe

The Eastern Phoebe’s call is a sharp chip, and the song, from which it gets its name, is fee-bee. [1]

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. [1]

It often nests on human structures such as bridges and buildings. Nesting activity may start as early as the first days of April.  Both parents feed the young and usually raise two broods per year. [1]

References and Additional Information

[1]  Wikipedia: Eastern Phoebe
[2]  The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition – David Allen Sibley
[3]  Cornell – All About Birds: Eastern Phoebe
[4]  Cornell – All About Birds: Eastern Phoebe – sound
[5]  The Breeding Bird Atlas of Georgia – UGA Press: Schneider, Beaton, Keyes and Klaus, Eds.
[6]  Wikipedia: Tryant Flycatcher