Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe
An Eastern Phoebe specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A sparrow-sized (6 ½ -7 inches) flycatcher, the Eastern Phoebe is most easily identified by its gray-green body, pale breast, and notched tail. This species is most easily distinguished from the similarly patterned Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) by that species’ conspicuous white wing bars. Male and female Eastern Phoebes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Eastern Phoebe breeds across much of the northeastern United States and south-central Canada. In winter, this species may be found in the southeastern U.S. and northern Mexico. Eastern Phoebes are present all year in portions of the interior southeast and the Mid-Atlantic. Eastern Phoebes breed in a variety of forest habitats, including forests with deciduous trees, evergreen trees, or a mix of both. This species generally utilizes similarly-structured habitats in winter as in summer. Eastern Phoebes primarily eat small flying insects, but may also eat fruits and berries during the winter and on migration when insects are unavailable. In eastern forests in summer, the Eastern Phoebe may be most easily observed flying out from high perches to capture insect prey. This species may also be observed on a high perch singing its characteristic ‘phoe-be’ song. Eastern Phoebes are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common breeding and transient bird. Migrates to this area in early March and April, nests from late March to late June, migrates south in September and October. Nests near water, on bridges, buildings, and culverts. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31294 Sayornis phoebe (Eastern Phoebe)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31295 Sayornis phoebe (Eastern Phoebe)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC52451 Sayornis phoebe (Eastern Phoebe)