Eastern Phoebes

The Eastern Phoebe, Sayornis phoebe, is a small passerine bird.

Distribution / Habitat:

This tyrant flycatcher breeds in eastern North America, although its normal range does not include the southeastern coastal USA.

It is migratory, wintering in the southernmost USA and Central America. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

The breeding habitat of this bird is open woodland, farmland and suburbs, often near water. This is one of the first birds to return in spring and one of the last to leave in the fall.

It often nests on human structures such as bridges and buildings. The nest is an open cup with a mud base and lined with moss and grass, built in crevice in a rock or man-made site; 3-8 eggs are laid. Both parents feed the young and usually raise two broods per year.

Diet / Food:

This phoebe is insectivorous, and often perches conspicuously when seeking food items. It also eats fruits and berries in cooler weather.


A perching bird will repetitively pump its tail and this is often a good way to identify the bird.

This species is gray-brown above. It has a white throat, dirty gray breast and yellowish underparts which become whiter during the season. Its lack of an eye ring and wingbars, and its all dark bill distinguish it from other American flycatchers, and it pumps its tail up and down like other phoebes.

Compare the similar Eastern Wood Pewee, which has stronger wing-bars and does not bob its tail habitually.

Call / Song:

The Eastern Phoebe’s call is a sharp chip, and the song, from which it gets its name, is fee-bee.

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