safe haven

A few weeks ago, a pair of Eastern phoebes decided to build a nest in the rafters of our porch. After a brief courtship, they began bringing tiny balls of mud from the creek bank and depositing them on a narrow ledge on the porch. After it dried, the mud would help to secure the nest to the ledge. Once they were satisfied with the mud base, the phoebes built the nest out of lichens, moss, and soft plant parts. The nest was just ten feet from the front door.

I was surprised that the phoebes chose such a busy location when they could have built the nest in a less-trafficked area. For two weeks, despite the human activity and the dogs running in and out the door, the female remained entrenched in the nest, seemingly oblivious to the noise and traffic, while she waited for her eggs to hatch. This struck me as amazing when only a couple of weeks ago I wouldn’t have even known the phoebes were around if I hadn’t heard their back and forth courtship calls.

Phoebes are not the only birds that choose to build their nests close to human activity. Sparrows, swallows, bluebirds, and wrens, to name a few, are also known to build their nests in the eaves of homes and barns where there is a lot of activity. Sensing that their helpless offspring will be safer if located close to human activity, these birds are able to temporarily overcome their innate fear of people and use their hosts as a sort of insurance policy against predation of the nest.

The list of predators of bird nests is a long one: hawks, owls, crows, blue jays, weasels, fox, squirrels, snakes, and cats. In the wild, the odds are stacked against the phoebes. So, weighing the scales, it would seem the lesser of the two evils to endure the closeness of humans. In any event, it ended well for the little ones. The five youngsters, shown below, all fledged safely.

Three days before leaving the nest

The day before the big day (the nest is looking very crowded!)

The fledglings will remain under their parent’s care until they are old enough to fend for themselves. The youngster below is patiently waiting for mom or dad to bring him some food, but in a matter of days, he will be entirely on his own.

When I bought my farm, I did not know what a bargain I had in the bluebirds, daffodils and thrushes; as little did I know what sublime mornings and sunsets I was buying. Ralph Waldo Emerson

7 thoughts on “safe haven

  1. GREAT story with a happy ending! I think we have a couple of phoebes on our property, too! I am trying to learn to identify the different calls of the birds near us (with the help of
    the “Backyard Birdsong Guide” which is an audio field guide to listen to the various bird calls and try to distinguish them). Do you have that book? It is lots of fun to use! Much love, Margie

  2. No, I don’t have that particular field guide, Margie, I like to use the Cornell website ( where you can enter a bird species and listen to an audio clip of their call/song. It’s always rewarding to identify a new bird song! Glad you’re enjoying the birds there. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Hi, Jo Ann. Too much coffee, too late, so I’m wide-awake and looking at your bird photos! Really like the one where they’re all stuffed in the nest, ready to fledge.

    • Coffee does that to me at night too. Even tho I love it, I’ve learned to drink half a cup and throw the rest away! I Like that photo too – As fast as they grow, I don’t think they could have stayed there one more day.

  4. Pingback: The Birds Outside My Window | Wood and Field

Comments are closed.