Phoebe Bird Call
Figure 1. Breeding, nonbreeding (winter), and year-round ranges of the Eastern Phoebe.
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Adult Eastern Phoebe, Kalamazoo, MI, June.
Adults in summer are very drab, with essentially no wingbars, contrasting dark heads, and grayish-white underparts. The following is a link to this photographer's website: .
Despite its unobtrusive behavior and drab coloration, the Eastern Phoebe is a familiar bird to those who live within its range. Its tendency to nest on human dwellings and under bridges has endeared it to many and earned it the common names of “bridge pewee” and “barn pewee” in 19th century North America. Indeed, this flycatcher's use of bridges has evidently been a key element in the spread of its breeding range into the Great Plains and the southeastern United States. Unlike the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), however, it has not totally abandoned its original nest sites and continues to nest on rock outcrops and other natural niches when available.
This phoebe is one of the earliest migrants to nest in the northern United States and southern Canada, with pairs forming and building nests in late March in the southern reaches of its breeding range. A monogamous and typically double-brooded species, individuals usually keep the same mate for both broods. The unique character and scarcity of this phoebe's nest sites promotes strong site-attachment, so that the same pair occasionally occupies the same site in successive years—a fact first documented by John James Audubon in 1804 when he tied a small circle of silver thread to the legs of nestling phoebes and then documented their return in successive years.
Most Eastern Phoebes winter in the southeastern United States, although some winter as far north as the lower Midwest and as far south as Mexico. Severe winters in the southern United States may cause periodic population crashes of this species. Although strongly insectivorous, this phoebe can subsist on fruits when cold, windy weather makes insects scarce.