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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Eastern Phoebe -- Sayornis phoebe


RANGE: Breeds from northeastern British Columbia and west-central and southern Mackenzie to southwestern Quebec and central New Brunswick, south to southern Alberta, southwestern South Dakota, central New Mexico, and central and northeastern Texas across to northern Georgia and North Carolina. Winters from central Texas, the Gulf States, and Virginia south to Mexico and southern Florida; casually from Oklahoma, southern Ontario, and New England.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Generally occurs near fresh running water in partially wooded habitats; frequents woodland edges, wooded ravines and cliffs, farms, and suburban areas where natural or artificial ledges are available for nesting.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Cliffs or ledges at stream-side clearings, or structures at forest openings for nesting. Perches 5 to 15 feet high for feeding.

NEST: Nests on a ledge, usually sheltered above by an overhang, on natural or artificial structures, and generally near lakes or streams. May nest under bridges, culverts, or eaves of buildings, on cliffs, rock bluffs, or in ravines. Frequently uses nests from previous years, but is very adaptable in its nesting habits. Frequently the victim of cowbird parasitism.

FOOD: In late winter and early spring, subsists mainly on seeds and wild berries; at other times, feeds on insects, usually hawking them from a perch.

REFERENCES: Beal 1912, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Hespenheide 1971, Johnsgard 1979, Tate and Tate 1982, Weeks 1979.


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