Phoebes in our midst

Eastern phoebe, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 2019

This has been Infrastructure Week in our neighborhood, as the streets are being repaved. Our three-block enclave has been beset by enormous machines grinding down the old road surface and splaying out the new, kicking up dust and making an awful lot of noise.

Amid that cacophony, I took a walk the other day and heard a faint call that sounded like “fee-be, fee-be.” In more than five years at my current location, I’ve never seen or heard an Eastern phoebe, so I figured I was mistaken.

A day or so later, my wife spied a bird near one of our feeders and asked, “What kind of bird is that?” It flew off a split second later. Noticing its dark top and white underside, I was a bit puzzled but figured it must be a dark-eyed junco, either one who was late in heading north than the usual reverse snowbirds we see or maybe one migrating from farther south.

Back on the golf course on June 7, I had my camera with me and was able to take this fuzzy shot of an Eastern Phoebe, probably the same bird I saw earlier this spring. This time he gave me a signature tail flick before taking off.

This morning, while walking along a pond on the golf course behind our street, I watched a great blue heron to my right fly away once it sensed my approach. Then I heard clearly the trochaic call of “fee-be, fee-be.” There, about 15 feet away on the edge of wooden bridge over a creek just off to my left, was a no-doubter Eastern phoebe. It flew into a tree, another and then another before take its leave of me.

What a thrill! I’ve rarely seen phoebes, and I only recently got acquainted them on a beginner’s bird-watching class my wife and I took at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve just over the Delaware River near New Hope, Pennsylvania. On a subsequent visit, the phoebe shown at the top above presented himself to me near the parking lot as I was about to head home.

I think it’s likely that our backyard visitor was a phoebe, and it’s even more likely that the one I heard around the block was one because that’s near the woods of the golf course.

Come and stay awhile, little bird. You are welcome here always.

Editor’s note: one of the hazards of learning to be a better birder is mistaken identifications. While I properly identified the phoebe in the wild, when I initially wrote this post I wrote “peewee” instead. I have corrected that. So if you’re looking for infallible advice here, you won’t find it. Should you spot anything in error, dear reader, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

3 thoughts on “Phoebes in our midst

  1. Hey, Dan, great phoebe sightings, and hurray for identifying them by their calls! Phoebes also have a behavior that helps identify them: sitting on a wire, as they often do, they pump their tails up and down. Watch for that too. I love your website and blog!!


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