The Eastern Phoebe

February 25, 2014

Eastern Phoebe, photo courtesy of Jeremiah Trimble

December 14 2007 SD 2jjj (9)

Eastern Phoebes continue to nest under the bridge at Auburn Lake.

The Eastern Phoebe is the first flycatcher to arrive in the northeast in the spring. It is even likely that when the first Phoebe shows up at MountAuburn there may still be ice on the ponds and snow on the ground. The Phoebe’s song is a two-note rendition of its name, an emphatic pheee-bee or a shorter and softer sweedEE.  The Phoebe is not outstanding in plumage but is very active; constantly wagging its tail as it sits upright on usually a very conspicuous perch and occasionally sallies out to snatch insects on the wing.

It was formally known as the Bridge Pewee, the Phoebe insists on having a roof over its nest be it a bridge, a porch, or even a window sill. It also will nest on rock out cropping or anywhere providing a roof. William Brewster writes in his Birds of the Cambridge Region (Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, 1906) that as recently as 1898 Mr. Walter Deane observed a pair which had a nest on the timbers of a bridge that spans one of the ponds at the Cemetery. Mr. Brewster would be pleased that even now, Eastern Phoebes continue to nest under the bridge at Auburn Lake.

About the Author: Bob Stymeist

Bob Stymeist is Bird Observer’s Bird Sightings Compiler and a regular bird walk leader for the Friends of Mount Auburn.

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