The Eastern Phoebes Are Back
As soon as the sugarhouse at Distant Hill was built in 2007, Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) took up residence. That first year, we made the mistake of allowing the birds to nest in the rafters. What a mess! A lesson was learned. Now the doors and windows of the main building are kept closed, starting in early spring and through the summer. Our avian visitors are welcome to nest in the woodshed attached to the sugarhouse, and for the past four years that is exactly what they have done. They still make a mess, but a gravel floor is a bit easier to clean than all of our stainless steel maple syrup equipment!
Interesting Facts about Eastern Phoebes
- In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe's leg to track its return in successive years.
- The Eastern Phoebe is a loner, rarely coming in contact with other phoebes. Even members of a mated pair do not spend much time together. They may roost together early in pair formation, but even during egg laying the female frequently chases the male away from her.
- The use of buildings and bridges for nest sites has allowed the Eastern Phoebe to tolerate the landscape changes made by humans and even expand its range. However, it still uses natural nest sites when they are available.
- Unlike most birds, Eastern Phoebes often reuse nests in subsequent years—and sometimes Barn Swallows use them in between. In turn, Eastern Phoebes may renovate and use old American Robin or Barn Swallow nests themselves.
- The oldest known Eastern Phoebe was 10 years, 4 months old.
The facts above are thanks to allaboutbirds.org