Sunday, April 09, 2006


Early in the morning I could hear the call fee-bree, fee-bree. I searched and searched but could not find the bird anywhere, and then the call rang out from the other side of the clearing. Had the bird flown right past me without me seeing it? The call came again, slightly to the east from where I was first searching. Turning my head, I spotted movement and was nearly certain I had spotted the first phoebe of the year. The return of the Eastern Phoebe is one of the things that tell me spring is really on its way. Again the call came from the other side of the clearing; there were two birds - great view of one on the power line just next to the deck.

This afternoon, I heard the calls again but couldn’t find the birds until I spotted one on a bare branch of a Chestnut Oak – he gave his location away by slowly and incessantly wagging his tail.

Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
Tyrant Flycatcher Family

The favorite perch of the Phoebes is our phone and power lines. They will swoop off the lines, catch a moth or bug in mid-flight, execute a smooth u-turn and return to their perch to finish their meal. The lines stretch out over clear areas, which seem to attract a lot of insects. The plantings below the power lines also attract numerous bees and wasps, which are a good part of the phoebe’s diet.

Fascinating fact: In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe's leg to track its return in successive years
Eastern Phoebes are medium-sized flycatchers. They are brownish gray above, darkest on the wings, tail, and head, and have dark bills. Underparts are whitish with an olive wash on the breast and flanks. They lack the eye rings and wing bars of the Empidonax flycatchers; they are similar in appearance to Eastern Wood Pewees (Contopus virens), but they lack wing bars and orangish lower mandible


Anonymous Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I simply cannot understand how you get these incredible pictures. There are lots of birds here in the South Bay, but none as exotic as yours--and I certainly can't get close enough to get pictures like these.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Nan said...

My goodness. You are a kindred spirit for sure! ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS POST! You managed some fabulous photos. I have never seen a Phoebe.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous SB said...

Your bird photos are just amazing!

12:27 AM  
Blogger Pam in Tucson said...

Yes, yes, yes!!! One of my favourite eastern birds and you photographed them beautifully! These are so exciting! Great wing shot - I'm smiling with joy (although my pick for #1 is the one above it, beak open - singing? - and such a bright eye).

How I remember fee-bree, fee-bree. Your eloquent writing takes me back to days in CT, wandering the woods with my elderly friend, Phoebe, who was a graduate of Cornell's ornithology and biology departments in the early 1940's. (Unlike you, though, she couldn't remember the common name for anything - she spoke mostly in Latin on our walks.)

12:56 AM  
Blogger T. Beth said...

Phoebes are such good birds to have around! They consume amazing quantities of pesky flying insects.

2:49 AM  
Blogger kerrdelune said...

Endment, a beautiful bird, gorgeous images, and a delightful taste of the Spring which is still to arrive up here. I have been listening for Phoebes in the woods for weeks now, but they have not yet returned. Good news on the weekend though - a Common Loon (anything but common in my view) has returned to the lake and a Great Blue Heron visited the beaver pond very briefly.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Cindy said...

this bird is at the very top of my most loved list- so much so that I named my pup after them. They're bundles of energy and their calls are pure delight. Great photos!

10:47 AM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

I love your patience in getting these photographs. I can just imagine how you wait for these wonderful moments. You are well rewarded for taking the time. Such beautiful photographs.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

Thank you for sharing your bird friends. You get such amazing photos. I come here and then when I leave I have bird songs in my heart!

1:13 PM  
Blogger Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Lovely.. ;-) I am speechless.. AND you know how hard it is to make a writer speechless. LOL

3:43 PM  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

Thank you for yet another introduction to a beautiful new friend. Pheobe.

3:50 PM  
Blogger HoBess said...

Oh I love the picture that looks as though he's talking just to you. Your pictures are always so soothing.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Pris said...

As everybody's already said, incredible photos!! I don't know how you get them, either, but I love them!!

9:47 PM  
Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

As always, images to lift the spirit.
You must be the most patient person in the world to get these photos.

Thanks again for such a calming influence in Blog-World. :-)

10:41 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

fran aka reddondowriter
I have a skylight near the trees and lots of time

it is lovely to be a kindred spirit

thank you

pam in tucson
thank you - sure wish I knew your Phoebe friend.

t. beth
We are having a hatch of something small - a bit like mosquitos but I can'g get close enough to see what they are ... the phoebe seems to go right through the middle - hope he is getting lots of them.

hope you see and hear the phoebe soon. Would love to see your loon they are aother of my favorite birds

your pup is a beautiful phoebe also:)
your phoebe photo on your blog is wonderful

rexroth's daughter and susan k. williams
thank you - I'm doubtful that I am a naturally patient person (at least not compared to my husband) but the birds and animals are great incentive and reward.

I am so glad!

cynthia e. bagley
glad someone who is officially a writer has to search for words now and then :)

greenish lady
hope you get to see them for yourself soon

I loved having the camera catch him as he was calling. thank you

he just came and sat outside the skylight -

11:05 PM  
Anonymous tempestdelfuego said...

Wow, your photos are beautiful.
There's a bird in our city, Vancouver, BC, who has an unusual song. It sounds like he's tuning up to sing, but never actually gets to singing. I haven't been able to see the bird yet.
Thanks for sharing your words and pictures.

1:11 PM  
Blogger threecollie said...

Our phoebes are being heard but not seen just now. They usually use our creek as a base, but this year they are up behind the cow barn.
Wonderful photos!

4:01 PM  
Anonymous homebird said...

Wonderful photos and great text description of a favorite bird. I'm glad you had the time and patience to track the birds down. You've been ahead of me with the pine warblers and kinglets, but my phoebes have been here since the day I moved in. I hear them when I wake up in the morning and when I get home from work in the evening. They are more cooperative than yours and will perch on my deck railing or other obvious spots. I've grown so used to them, I don't know what I'd do if they decided to move. Thanks for such a fine post.

9:57 PM  

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