Eastern Phoebe
Sayornis phoebe
Family Tyrannidae
Subfamily Fluvicolinae

These sparrow-sized flycatchers are often observed energetically flitting from branch to branch, snapping insects out of midair and flicking their tails downward.

Identifying Traits (both sexes):

  • Sooty brown-black above, off-white below
  • Small, all-black pointed bill
  • Narrow, slightly notched tail
  • Lacks eye-ring or wing bars
  • Often flicks or bobs tail downwards
  • Juvenile:  May show some yellow on underside
  • Size: 16-18 cm (6.5-7”)
  • Weight: 16-21 g (0.6-0.7oz)

Similar Species: Most other flycatchers whose ranges overlap have either an eye-ring, white wing bars, or both.

Voice: The song of the eastern phoebe is a high, clear fee-beee.  Its alarm note is a buzzy, sharp chip.

Habitat: Eastern phoebes are most often seen near streamsides, roadsides, and bridges.

Range: The eastern phoebe breeds regularly from Virginia northward, and it spends the colder months in the southern U.S.

Interesting Facts: An eastern phoebe was the first bird ever to be “banded” when, in 1804, John James Audubon tied a silver cord to a phoebe’s leg to track its comings and goings through the years.



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