Posts Tagged ‘eastern phoebe’

Return of the Eastern Phoebe


I took a break before starting supper and went out in the yard to listen for birds. There should be several species migrating. A phoebe (a flycatcher) repeated its name from a perch I couldn’t find in the catalpa.


The phoebe flew to the trees by the barn.


They were still almost impossible to find in all the foliage.


And then …. and then …. one phoebe landed on the edge of the barn roof. Its song was a rendition of “fee bee, fee bay.


They nested in the barn three years ago. The nest was in a convenient place on the side of a rafter where I could take pictures of the young ones.

My fingers are crossed, hoping they will nest here again.

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I took this picture in 2013.


Eastern Phoebe

I was taking a “down” as my grandparents called it — an afternoon nap.

An eastern phoebe repeated its name over and over from a tree outside the window. From its flatter tone, I knew it was one of the immatures in the yard.

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All these pictures were taken a few days ago. The brown color indicates an immature.

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The phoebes nested twice in our barn this summer, and this one is from the last brood.

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One of the parents “perched guard” over the young in the picture above. Notice the color difference.

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This is the first eastern phoebe picture I took on March 15th. The female built her nest on the side of a beam in the barn. The pair used that nest for their second brood too.

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The nestlings were 1 or 2 days old in this picture taken on May 3.

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And the last picture of the first brood was taken on May 16! 

My, how they grew!


Phoebe Diary 3

It seems impossible that baby birds grow so fast.IMG_8626 red

I took this picture on May 3rd.

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How could the five fit comfortably in the nest like this on May 13?

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Three beaks show on the right in this picture.

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One of the parents came to the back of the barn to”chip” at me. It was a first. It didn’t show any aggression.

Walking in the barn, taking 13 pictures and leaving took 3 minutes.

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May 14th pictures showed the continual day-to-day fast growth

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and the increasing crowded conditions. There were 5 in the nest.

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Today — May 15. I know the nest won’t stretch as they grow.  IMG_9559 crop redThis was day 12 since eggs hatched. They should fledge between 16 and 20 days.

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These last 3 pictures were taken Thursday, the 16th and they will definitely be the last ones. Look closely at the yellow wire coming to the light. See the tiny brown spots? Well, those are mites and they were everywhere close by.

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These were taken from further back towards the barn door and the lens zoomed in.

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The parents were quite vocal with my presence. I didn’t linger.

I have enjoyed the experience, though.


Just so happened I was walking around the yard today (May 17th) with my camera. “Wonder if it would work if I took pictures zoomed in from the door and used the flash?”

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One out of 4 pictures was passable. The parents were quite aggitated. I closed the door and left.

Imagine — they went from the top picture to this last one in 14 days!

Phoebe Diary 2

This blog continues the diary of the eastern phoebes nesting in our barn.

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They’re obviously smaller than the next pictures. Notice the featherless wing in the right foreground. I took this picture on May 3.

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I didn’t take any more pictures until May 7 because of the cold rainy weather. Their nest is in our barn. Notice the growth of wing feathers.

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The only way to photograph in the nest was to stand on the axil and tire of the riding mower. I held a small flashlight in my left hand and used the camera with my right. The nest is on the top of a light on a rafter. This means I aimed the flashlight the direction I thought looked the best and did the same with the camera. Needless to say, I took several pictures in hopes of at least one good one.

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This picture and the one above were taken on May 8. There was considerable size difference since they hatched. They should fledge when 16-20 days old.

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May 9

Finally, they were positioned so I could count. There were 5 light tan eggs, and nowwere 5 little ones.

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May 10 showed rapid growth, especially in the feathers.

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I took this picture and the next one yesterday, Saturday the 11th.

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Their size and crowded conditions challenged picture-taking.


I ended up with no finished blog that I wanted to post today. My computer is by the picture window overlooking the backyard. What I assume is the male has perched at different places, flown out to catch a flying insect and headed straight for the barn. We’re considerably below normal temperature-wise, so the female is probably with the young.

This is a reminder of just how many Mothers there are in the world, counting all species!


You can find my first blog on the phoebe nest at:

Phoebe Diary

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I spotted an eastern phoebe carrying nesting material into the barn on March 30.

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The female built her nest over the only light in that side of the barn.  She built it with mud and moss, and lined it with grasses, hair and feathers.

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They perch different places around the yard where they have good vantage point for hawking insects.

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The barn faces the west. So, that makes taking pictures of the nest better in the evening.

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The flash didn’t work for pictures inside the nest. I couldn’t see where to aim the camera for the best pictures. This picture was taken on May 1st.

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Then I figured out how to get relatively decent pictures on May 3rd. I set the camera for low light and used a small flashlight. The pictures didn’t work until I stood with my left foot on the axil and my right foot on the tire.

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I aimed the flashlight in the direction that looked best, zoomed the lens in and snapped pictures. Obviously, this isn’t the best picture, but under these conditions …..

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The pictures improved after a little practice.

IMG_8626 redI like this one with the grayish beak of the one and a featherless wing in the lower right.

IMG_8623 redI suspect the whitish shape in the right side of the nest is a fecal sac.  It has a mucous membrane that surrounds the feces. They’re usually carried off by the parents. I’ve watched birds fly over the yard and drop a fecal sac.

They’re Nesting in the Barn

They, meaning eastern phoebes, were carrying nesting material into the barn to build their nest during the afternoon of March 28.

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Please excuse the quality of these pictures. I had to sit in the truck, 35 yards away and take them through the windshield.

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 Eastern phoebes are a flycatcher. Early ones began returning to southern Illinois in late February.

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This phoebe landed in the catalpa tree. Apparently, it’s a good place for hawking insects. It flew with its prey into the back of the barn.

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Phoebe’s nest in niches of cliffs, banks beneath bridges, in culverts, and in this case, over the light in our barn. They build the nest with mud pellets, plant fibers, moss, and line it with hair, feathers and grass.

The female lays 4-5 eggs. The eggs are usually white; some may have small brown spots. The eggs are incubated 16 days, and the young fledge in 15-16 days. Their diet consists of mostly of flying insects. I hope the pair use the nest for a second brood.

A Lazy Hike

Three days of warm weather to be followed by hard freeze temperatures … I didn’t stay home. Buffy and I went for a lazy hike at my rural property.

Obviously, the creek hadn’t seen any rain for a long time.

This was the start of a rocky area on the west side of the ravine. The south end (in above picture) is on Forest Service. The short bluff/rocky area continues north to the bluff on my property.

Mud daubers commonly build their nests in back under areas that are mostly out of the rain.

Eastern phoebes (a flycatcher)  build their nests from mud, mosses and other fine plant material.

They return in late winter and build their nests on ledges protected from the weather. Under bridges is commonly used too.

What a nice cozy place for a squirrel to dine on acorns.

The view to the southeast sure has changed.

We continued on to the north. The short bluff on my property is just on the other side of the overhang at the far end in the picture.

An ebony spleenwort fern looked all tucked in the crevice.

This “cave” is behind the overhang.

A pair of turkey vultures successfully nested in there several years ago.  The nesting was successsful, so I don’t understand why the cave’s not been used again.