What Fun, Observing Eastern Phoebe Chicks!

Each year a pair of Eastern Phoebes return to their nest at my sister’s Pennsylvania home. This year we checked the nest after seeing a couple of Eastern Phoebe’s flying around last year’s nest. We climbed near the nest, iPhone in hand with outstretched arm, blindly poised above the nest and camera lens aimed at the interior of the nest. Our photo allowed us to discover 4 eggs in the nest!

Adult Eastern phoebe

An adult’s tail-wagging distinguishes this bird from others and their nests are often under eaves of manmade structures, such as the interior of the shed here. They prefer farmland and mate for life; yet some males may have 2 partners. Brown-headed cowbirds are known to replace the phoebe’s eggs with their own, thus the biggest threat to these birds. The eggs incubate for 15- 18 days. The Eastern phoebes are very protective of the area. Even after the eggs hatched, the adult birds kept a close eye on where I was. I set my tripod in one spot and remained still so I could photograph the adult feeding the young.

Eastern phoebe eggs

The 4 eggs hatched and I observed the adults feeding the chicks. Three of the 4 chicks seemed to monopolize their parent’s feeding. It was fascinating to observe the adult birds assess whether they felt safe feeding their chicks while I stood a distance away. I remained still and during a half hour time period I saw the 2 adults each feed the chicks.

Clearly see 3 chicks.
Look closely to see 4 beaks in the air as the adult looks my way.
A minute later the adult directs its attention back to its young.

Eastern phoebes don’t overlap with black phoebes, thus I was happy to see this bird during my east coast travel! I see darker-headed black phoebes where I live on the west coast of the USA. I know many people believe the bird symbolizes stillness in the chaos of life. Whether Celtic, Native American, Greek, Maori, or Far East, there is a common thread about the bird’s symbolism; the bird being a symbol of hope, patience, joy, love and compassion and to follow our heart’s desires.

Eastern phoebes eat many insects.

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