How to Identify an Eastern Phoebe

Learn what an Eastern phoebe looks like, and what their song sounds like. Find out what these birds eat and where to find them.

What Does an Eastern Phoebe Look Like?

Roland Jordahl
Eastern Phoebe

Scientific Name: Sayornis phoebe
Family: Flycatcher
Length: 7 inches
Wingspan: 10-1/2 inches
Distinctive Markings: White throat, long dark tail and a dark head

Nest and Eggs

Eastern Phoebe nestlings

Nest: Mud and moss, lined with grasses, hair and feathers, under a bridge, deck or in a cave entrance; holds two to six white eggs.

Eastern phoebes made history in 1804 when Audubon tied silver thread on the legs of nestlings – the first North American experiment in bird banding. The next year he found two of his marked birds nesting nearby.

What Does an Eastern Phoebe Eat?

Diet: Insects. To attract them, grow native plants to attract bugs.

Plant native trees that attract birds.

eastern phoebe Barbara DivisCourtesy Barbara Davis

Bird Song

Listen to the Eastern phoebe’s song. It calls its name in rapid successions, “phoebe, phoebe, phoebe.” Also, clear, whistled “weew” or “tiboo.”

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Range Map and Habitat

Look for these birds near water, woods with streams, farmyards and along wooded country roads with bridges crossing streams.

Eastern Phoebe Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.