Another brood of phoebes leaves the nest

For the fourth year in a row, a pair of Eastern Phoebes nested on our porch and successfully fledged their young. I took this picture of the four nestlings yesterday (only three are visible in this picture), thinking it would be a couple more days before the big event, but they were all gone by the time we got up this morning.

In Virginia, phoebes generally raise two broods per season. Unlike most birds, they frequently return to nest where they were successful in raising their young the previous year.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “the Eastern Phoebe is a loner, rarely coming in contact with other phoebes.” They go on to say even members of a mated pair do not spend much time together; they may roost together early in pair formation, but even during egg laying the female frequently chases the male away from her.” In the case of our pair, however, I did see the male hanging around a lot during the day guarding the nest, and several times bringing food to the nestlings.

It is interesting to me that the phoebes, like bluebirds, wrens, and swallows, seem to give up their fear of humans and nest close to people for the few weeks it takes to raise their young. I see it as a sort of insurance policy to protect their nest. I remember reading somewhere that about a third of all eggs in the wild get eaten by nest robbers before they hatch. So the phoebes are very smart to nest on our porch, where the only predators are black snakes, and the dogs do a pretty good job of keeping them away!



2 thoughts on “Another brood of phoebes leaves the nest

  1. When I was a kid, we always had a nest of these in the drive shed (directly over where dad parked the truck; ) and only ever called them Flycatchers… It’s only been recently that I was wondering (yet again; ) who the mysterious little bird is that I’ve heard calling “Phoebe!” (over, and OVER at daybreak) and actually been able to connect the two as being one and the same; ) Thanks for the great pic that brought back lots of memories!: )

  2. Deb, it’s only since we moved to the farm that I really started to notice the phoebes. Some people say their repeated “phoebe” call is irritating, but I like to hear them. Even though they aren’t in the nest on the porch anymore they still come regularly to check the rafters for spiders and insects.

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