Thursday, November 21, 2013

This Week's Crops & Clips: Eastern Phoebe

Why does the image of a phoebe bring about a sense of peace and place within me? Is it the bird's association with old bridges and gently flowing streams, with childhood memories of long summers and the smell of moss and fresh grass? Or is it the attitude of the bird itself, placid, patient and unassumingly plain in plumage?

With fresh fall feathers, in the dawn's light, the phoebe's breast glows golden.

Eastern Phoebe 20131120

All winter it slurs its name "Shwee-be," or chips so sharply that the sound echoes, making it difficult to find the source.

Eastern Phoebe 3-20131120

Sometimes it permits a close approach, as this one did on the boardwalk railing in Chapel Trail Nature Preserve.

Eastern Phoebe 2-20131031

An unexpected visitor suddenly appears. "I wonder what it tastes like." The brightly colored Julia butterfly either mimics other bad-tasting butterflies or is itself unpalatable, so it passes by safely. 

Eastern Phoebe meets male Julia 20131031

The Eastern Phoebe graces our Florida neighborhood all winter long.

Eastern Phoebe 20120130

By midsummer, when we meet again in Illinois, the phoebe is in formal dress, its breast bleached white.  

Eastern Phoebe 20100515

This young phoebe has caught a Red Admiral butterfly. It will soon learn whether to do this again.

Eastern Phoebe with Red Admiral 20100518

In August, the contrast between upper and lower parts is now striking. Sorry I cut off the beak, but I took this shot in a hurry to document it because the bird looked unfamiliar! 

Eastern Phoebe 20110830

In early September, it is time for ragged feathers to be replaced in the post-breeding molt.

Eastern Phoebe 20100908

All of the above are Eastern Phoebes, but in the Southwest we find two other species, the Black Phoebe (photographed in Arizona)...

Black Phoebe 2-20130617

...and Say's Phoebe (digiscoped in my former back yard in New Mexico).

Say' s Phoebe


  1. i love the phoebes we have here. they (easterns) have several broods in our barn rafters every summer. such great bug eaters and i love their repetitive calls. :) great shot with the butterfly!

  2. Hi Ken. I never heard of this bird so for me this was a very informative post with wonderful. Photos especially the last one. thanks.

  3. That one with the phoebe looking at the butterfly is priceless!

  4. Great pictures - the one with the "should I eat it?" butterfly is splendid.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  5. Once again, extraordinary photography. I especially like the butterfly coming in to join it!!! What great timing.

  6. Eastern Phoebes are such sweet birds!

  7. I was here earlier this week....and still, my favorite is the one with the butterfly!!!

  8. They are sweet bird, great collection of images! Happy Weekend!

  9. Great serie! Lovely birds, well done!

  10. Beautiful photos, especially the one where the bird is looking at the butterfly.

  11. Oh how adorable. That shot with the butterfly is fabulous Ken!

  12. Great series Ken. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.


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