Sayornis phoebe


The Eastern Phoebe was the first bird banded by John James Audubon, around 1840. He attached silvered thread to the leg of several nestlings, which he observed building nests in the same area the following year.

Like other phoebes, this bird constantly wags its tail. The Eastern Phoebe primarily feeds on flying insects, which it pursues from a perch near the ground. Also occasionally feeds on small fruits.

The Eastern Phoebe is one of the earliest spring migrants. Males begin singing and setting up territories upon arrival at their breeding grounds. The singing decreases when females arrive and nesting season begins.


Brownish-gray upperparts, with the head, wings, and tail being darker. Whitish underparts in Spring, yellowish in Fall. Olive wash on breast and flanks. Pale throat. Dark bill. Juvenile has buffy wing bars. Sexes similar. 6 to 7 inches in length.


Open woodlands and forest edges near water.


2-6 white eggs, sometimes has a few reddish brown spots. The eggs have a 16 day incubation period. Fledging occurs in 15-16 days. The nest is an open cup made of mud mixed with green moss and some grass and leaves, lined with fine grass stems, moss, and hair. The nest is cemented with mud to a wall, near a ceiling, under a bridge, cliff, or building eave.

Observed Locations:

  • 10th & E St, Coronado Island
  • Kit Carson Park, Escondido
  • Dairy Mart Rd, Tijuana River Valley
  • Rose Canyon, University City

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.