Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
The Eastern Phoebe’s range is wide. Where it can find nesting sites, this phoebe breeds from Texas to the northern Canadian provinces and then east to the Atlantic Ocean. It winters south of the line from the Carolinas through Texas, and then into much of Mexico.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
In order to breed, the Eastern Phoebe needs woods, water, and rocky outcrops, or artificial structures such as barns, houses, bridges, or utility buildings. This phoebe is often found along creeks, at the edge of woodlands, and in yards. Outside the breeding cycle, it moves into a wide variety of brushy habitats, thick weeds, and woods near water.
During the summer months, Eastern Phoebes mostly eat flying insects like bees, wasps, ants, beetles, and flies, but they also capture spiders, ticks, and water bugs. From an exposed perch, this phoebe scans for prey, then swoops out to either snatch it from the air, chase it to the ground, or pick it from a leaf. Berries and other fruits supplement the phoebe’s diet in cool weather.
Eastern Phoebes appear to be monogamous, often returning to the same nest site each year to re-establish pair bonds. However, these solitary birds are highly territorial and appear to barely tolerate each other, even during breeding. Courtship displays are simple and brief. The female builds a nest foundation either by sticking mud to a vertical surface or piling mud in a ring on a flat surface. She then uses moss, grasses, and leaves to construct the nest cup, which is lined with fine plant materials and hair.
The female incubates 2 to 6 white eggs for about 16 days. Both adults care for the young for another 2 to 3 weeks, until they fledge. Because they depart abruptly and move far from the nest, fledglings are difficult to observe, but appear to receive care on the ground for another two weeks. Eastern Phoebes usually have two broods; they often re-use a site by renovating an old nest or building over its ruins.
Solitary Eastern Phoebes migrate early in the spring and linger late into the fall, especially if the weather is mild. Following the frost line, some individuals arrive almost a month before the main wave. Cold weather seems to determine a population’s movements, so that both migrations occur over three months.