This sweet bird greets me every morning outside my mom’s kitchen window in New Hampshire. Both the male and the female are building a nest under the back porch by the cellar door. They habitually place their mud, moss and grass nests in protected nooks on bridges, barns and every year they build under my mom’s back porch.

The Eastern Phoebe sings its own name, FEE-be, and can be heard frequently around our yard and the farm here in the spring and summer.  An interesting curiosity I learned about these birds is that unlike most songbirds who must hear other birds to learn their song, an Eastern Phoebe raised in isolation will still sing its perfect FEE-be song, passed down through its genes somehow.

In 1804, this common flycatcher became famous for being the first bird to be banded in North America.  John James Audubon attached a silver thread to its leg so he could identify him when he returned each year.

Flycatchers are fun to watch. They are brownish-gray above and off-white below. They sit upright and perch low in trees, on fence lines or on poles.  They look like they have a big head compared to other birds their size.  The head can also look rather flat with a crown of dark feathers flipping up when they are interested in catching a flying insect of some sort.

Phoebes are very active, making short flights to capture insects and very often return to the same perch. Common prey include wasps, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies and moths, flies, midges, and cicadas; they also eat spiders, ticks, and millipedes, as well as occasional small fruits or seeds.

Sadly, the Eastern Phoebe is strongly parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbird females will roll the Phoebe ‘s eggs and some right out of the nest and in the process, lay her own. The egg is rarely rejected by the Phoebe female. If one of the Phoebe eggs does hatch, the baby bird in a few days will usually starve because of the aggressive large baby Cowbird.

Nesting Facts for Eastern Phoebe

      • Clutch Size
        2–6 eggs
      • Number of Broods
        1-2 broods
      • Egg Length
        0.7–0.8 inch; 1.8–2.1 cm
      • Egg Width
        0.6–0.7 inch; 1.4–1.7 cm