Best 10 Eastern Phoebe Facts, Babies, Lifespan

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern phoebes are passerine birds that belong to the flycatcher family (one of the largest families of birds that contain 400 species). They are the members of Animalia kingdom, Chordata phylum, Aves class, Passeriformes order, Tyrannidae family, and Sayornis genus. The scientific name of Eastern phoebe is “Sayornis phoebe.”

The word “Sayornis” is derived from the combination of words that are used by Charles Lucien Bonaparte for Say’s phoebe, i.e., “Muscicapa saya” and “ornis,” which means “bird” in Ancient Greek. They are called phoebes because of the specific calls that males make, or they may also be connected to the Roman moon-goddess Diana (Phoebe).

They are widely distributed across North America. During the breeding season, they are found from northern Canada to the southeastern United States. During winter, they are found in Texas, southeastern United States, Florida, and Mexico. They inhabit woodlands, woody vegetation, forests, gardens, and agricultural areas.

They are a favorite among eastern birdwatchers. They exhibit dull coloration. They have pale brownish-grey upper parts and pale underparts of their bodies. The heads, wings, and tails are the darkest. Their beaks are thin and short. In juveniles, there are two cinnamon bars on their wings. Males are generally larger than females.

The plumages of males have darker coloration as compared to females. They are mostly solitary birds. They exhibit migration in cold weather towards Mexico and the southeast United States. During spring, they come back to their breeding sites. They exhibit tail wagging (sweeping the tail up and down and then side to side). Males usually sing to defend their territories and also to attract a mate. Their call includes a repeated pattern of “fee-bee.”

They feed on insects. They forage by watching from a perch and then fly to catch insects. Most of them can be caught in mid-air during flight. They also exhibit hovering while picking seeds and small fruits. Their breeding season starts in spring. They are monogamous that mate for life. Their nesting sites are ledges and under bridges. The nests are made of moss, mud, and leaves. Males exhibit their characteristic singing as a courtship ritual.

They have an average size of about 5.5 inches to 6.7 inches, an average weight of about 0.6 ounces to 0.7 ounces, and an average wingspan of about 10.2 inches to 11 inches.

Some of the predators of Eastern phoebe are chipmunks, mice, and snakes. The biggest threat to these birds is Brown-headed cowbirds. These cowbirds replace Eastern phoebe’s eggs with their eggs. The Eastern phoebes then start taking care of these replaced eggs as if they are their own. They are listed as least concerned by International Union for the Conservation of Nature. There are almost 32 million Eastern phoebes in the world. They can live up to 10 years.

Eastern Phoebe Call: 

They exhibit different vocalizations. Males exhibit singing. Their song sounds like a repeated pattern of “fee-bee.” It is because of this song they are called phoebe. These songs are heard during the breeding season while attracting mates and also while defending their territories.

Both the male and female communicate with each other via soft chip notes. They also make a loud sound by snapping their bill mandibles after seeing any predator.

Eastern Phoebe Male Vs Female: 

Eastern phoebes exhibit breading dimorphism. Males are larger in size and have darker plumages as compared to females. Males exhibit singing during the breeding season and also while defending their territories.

Eastern Phoebe Babies: 

The breeding season of Eastern phoebe starts during spring. They are monogamous and mate for life. The nesting sites are under bridges, culverts, and barns. The nests are cup-shaped, made of mud, moss, leaves, and lined with fine grass and hair. Males exhibit singing to attract females. After mating, females lay 4 to 5 eggs. Incubation is done by females for about 16 days. Both the parents bring food for their young ones. The young ones then leave the nest after about 16 days of hatching.

Eastern Phoebe Lifespan:

The average lifespan of Eastern phoebes is up to 10 years. The oldest known Eastern phoebe lived for about ten years and four months.

Eastern Phoebe Symbolism: 

Eastern phoebes belong to the flycatcher family that is well known for deceiving and diverting enemies.

The word “phoebe” comes from the symbolism connected with Roman moon-goddess Diana (phoebe). The phoebes symbolize wisdom and hidden knowledge. They are one of the earliest migrants. They bring hope by reminding us that spring is coming.

Eastern Phoebe Facts: 

Some of the facts about Eastern phoebes are as follows,

  1. Eastern phoebes belong to the flycatcher family.
  2. They are widely distributed across North America.
  3. They inhabit forests, marshes, swamps, gardens, streams, and other agricultural areas.
  4. They are omnivores and feed on flies, wasps, bees, spiders, grasshoppers, ticks, millipedes, and many other insects.
  5. Their most distinctive feature is their tail wagging.
  6. Their nesting sites are barns under bridges and culverts.
  7. They exhibit the characteristic “fee-bee” song.
  8. They are mostly solitary.
  9. Their name phoebe comes from the symbolism of the Roman goddess having the same name.
  10. Their predators are snakes, chipmunks, mice, crows, house wrens, and jays.
  11. The biggest threat to these birds is the Brown-headed cowbird that replaces the Eastern phoebe’s eggs with its own eggs.
  12. They are recorded as “least concern” by IUCN.
  13. Their estimated population is 32 million.
  14. They can live up to 10 years.

Eastern Phoebe Bird Eggs:

After the formation of nests in barns, culverts, or under the bridges with the help of mosses, leaves, and grass, females lay 2 to 6 or 4 to 5 eggs. The eggs are white in color with reddish spots. They are 0.7 inches to 0.8 inches in length and 0.6 inches to 0.7 inches in width. Females then incubate the eggs for about 16 days. The young ones leave the nest 16 days after hatching.

Eastern Phoebe

How Long Do Eastern Phoebe Bird’s Eggs Take To Hatch? 

Eastern phoebe’s eggs take almost 15 to 16 days to hatch.

How To Attract Eastern Phoebe?

Despite Eastern phoebes’ dull appearance, they are well known in the bird watching community because of their distinguishing song, tail wagging, and early spring arrival.

Following are some tips to attract Eastern phoebe,

  • There should be an insect-friendly yard.
  • Open woodlands are preferred.
  • There should be birdbath and perches.
  • There should be American Elderberry because it is the shrub that attracts them.
  • The flower and vines that attract them are Virginia creeper and Wild Grape.

How Big Is An Eastern Phoebe? 

Eastern phoebes are small passerine birds. Their average size is about 14 centimeters to 17 centimeters or 5.5 inches to 6.7 inches.

How Long Does An Eastern Phoebe Live? 

Eastern phoebes can live up to 10 years. The oldest known Eastern phoebe lived for ten years and four months.

How Much Does An Eastern Phoebe Weigh?

The average weight of Eastern phoebe is 0.6 ounces to 0.7 ounces or 20 grams.

How Many Eggs Does An Eastern Phoebe Lay? 

Eastern phoebe lays 2 to 6 eggs. Adults raise two broods per year.


Eastern phoebes are small passerine birds that belong to the flycatcher family. Despite their dull appearance, they are popular among birdwatchers. They are distinguished by other phoebes because of their “fee-bee” song and habit of wagging their tails in a circular motion. They are well known for migration, sexual dimorphism, and their symbolism with the Roman goddess. They have a stable population of about 32 million.

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