Eastern Phoebe: question re: fledgling birds' first flight from nest

niles1

We have a phoebe nest under a screened porch eve, just outside my home office door (that opens onto a patio). I have been able to watch the phoebe nesting pair raise their brood, from my office chair. The 4 babies have hatched, and have grown quite large over a 2-week period. They barely could fit into the nest. They were obviously getting ready to take flight any day. They were flapping their wings, preening, etc. The parents were still feeding them, but had cut down considerably on the frequency of feeding. It seemed like the parents were trying to get them to leave the nest -- but, I don't know if this is accurate. The frequency of feeding the babies was cut down drastically. An adult would visit the nest and stay perched on the edge of the nest for minutes at a time (instead of feeding a baby and then flying away immediately). The adults were hanging around the nest area, closer than before, and just sort of hanging out instead of getting food for the brood. I saw one adult flutter in front of the nest (like a humming bird) for a few seconds (facing the nest) -- a behavior I hadn't seen before. But, the babies remained in the nest.

Here is my dillemma/questions: I opened my office door to go out to the lawnmower. (When I previously had gone out the door, the babies were quite young and couldn't even be seen. Now, they are so big that they are overflowing the nest. ) I thought they would simply stay put when I opened the door and walked outside. But, instead, all 4 baby birds took flight out of the nest and into the surrounding trees (so far as I could tell). They obviously could fly-- and this was their first flight. Was this a mistake to (presumably) startle them? Are they going to be ok and independent of the parents? Will the parents still take care of them? Is the startle response perhaps the thing that gets baby birds to leave the nest? Or, would they naturally leave the nest without being startled? What is a "normal" way to leave the nest on a first flight?Will the parents round them up in a group and still feed them?

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whwo

They will be okay and the parents will take care of them. If they weren't ready to fledge they wouldn't have flown off. No need to worry.

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Konrad..just outside of Edmonton Alberta

Correct,...you've just helped flight a little ahead of time, this same happened to me with the same bird nesting under the bridge over my pond some years back, one day I looked under and all took off! Parents are smart and know where they are and still kept feeding them.

Here is one of them..


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niles1

Thanks (to both comments that I rec'd). I was so used to watching them daily for a month or more. I was looking forward to seeing exactly how they leave the nest. (My experience in seeing fledglings leave the nest has been limited to the old 1940s cartoon versions -- where the parent bird instructs the little guy how to fly, etc.) I'm just wondering how the "ideal version" of leaving the nest is supposed to go. Do the baby birds leave one by one? Do the parents "nudge" them all out of the nest? Does one baby bird follow the first, etc.? Do the parent birds call to them, scold them, until they "jump"? I will try to watch next year to see the full fledgeling experience, if they nest again in that nest (and I won't startle them next time).


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Konrad..just outside of Edmonton Alberta

Good,...please let us know. I was merely in shock seeing all take flight at ones..not something we expect them to do,..more like a one and then the other approach, it could be that this is unique amongst the Eastern Phoebe and we were lucky to whiteness this. NOW..by not startling them will they do the same??

I'm missing them the last couple of years nesting under the bridge, water level got higher and they can't approach structure very good...such nice birds to have around!

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catherinet

My phobes fledged about 4 days ago. When I took this pic, they sure looked ready. Later the next day, they were gone. I hope they come back and clean up the mess. hahaha

I have to say, having a phoebe nest on the porch is probably one of the best birds to have there. They are so quiet and peaceful!

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Konrad..just outside of Edmonton Alberta

Nice!

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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Adorable family there, catherinet! I'm glad they all safely left home.

Claire


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niles1

Yes, that photo of all 4 baby birds in the nest (maybe there are more that we can't see) is how mine looked, too. Even though they were all fairly large, like yours, they seemed to just be hanging on to the nest experience. Also, you mentioned the mess (presumably poop). These baby birds, and apparently all (or most, anyway) nesting birds poop out "fecal sacs". I didn't know this till I observed the (to me) odd behavior of the adult phoebes literally catching the baby birds' poop while the poop was being ejected, and flying away with it. I googled this behavior-- and found out (to my amazement) that this is typical behavior of nesting birds, to keep the nest clean and free from disease. The baby birds eject their poop, etc, contained within this clear gelatenous sac, so that it "holds together" and can be carried away by the adults. Sometimes the adults eat it, I think. That's what it said. I don't know how common the eating of the sac is. The baby birds typically poop immediately after being fed, so the adult brings the bug (or whatever) and hangs around for a split second to catch the poop. They trpically turn around so that their rear end is facing the outside rim of the nest. It is like clockwork. I've even seen the adult phoebe "miss" the ejected fecal sac -- but, then swoop down to catch it before it hit the ground. Unbelievable reaction time.


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catherinet

Thanks for that info niles! So......all those white spatters in my picture .......did the adult just miss those? haha

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niles1

Yes, you are correct! The phoebes are apparently not 100% able to catch all the poop (probably not a surprise, since who can ever be 100%?) We had a small bit of poop on the patio floor, but not much. I guess they must be in the 95% success category.

We used to have a pet canary and a pet cockateil, and they produced a lot of poop. So we were wondering why there seemed to be so little poop when the nest of phoebes had 4 rather large baby birds. That was a mystery. Where did it all go? If I hadn't witnessed the strange "poop-catching" behavior of the adult phoebe, I never would have googled it. (I didn't understand what was going on at the time -- just that it seemed like they were catching squirts of "poop" or something that clung together like a long clear worm. I wasn't even sure it was poop. Wierd.)

But, what I still don't understand is: What happened to the poop of the baby birds when they were very young hatchlings, and just able to stretch their necks and open their beaks? Maybe they don't start pooping till after the 2nd week of life? Maybe the "poop" comes out as a clear liquid during the first week of life? I have no idea. Remains to be investigated.

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niles1

OK, here's the "poop" on poop: After looking at a few websites, etc., it seems that different bird species can have different poop behaviors. Haven't found any specific to the Eastern Phoebe, but, many species' behaviors are similar. The newly-hatched baby birds apparently do eject fecal sacs from the start, and the parent birds often (always?) eat the fecal sacs of these very young babies. The reason this is OK is that the baby birds apparently at first are not capable of fully digesting the food (bugs) that the parents are feeding them. They do not possess the proper bacteria for digestion. So their poop is essentially undigested food, and does not contain contaminants, and simply passes through. This eating of the poop enables the adult birds to obtain their own nutrition even though they are constantly busy seeking out bugs to feed to the babies. As the baby birds grow, the babies obtain the bacteria for their digestive system and an ability to digest the bugs being brought to them by the parents. So, then the parents switch to grabbing the fecal sac and carrying it away. They then drop it some distance from the nest (apparently, this particular detail varies by species). They stop producing fecal sacs after they fledge. But, there does not seem to be definitive info on this detail. I wonder if, once they stop producing the fecal sacs, maybe that's when the parent birds decide it's time to kick them out of the nest. Which comes first? The fledging, or the stoppage of the fecal sacs?

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Pat z5/6 SEMich

Who knew my education on this Forum would be so extensive.

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starfishtmk90

The fledging comes first. My (three) Say's Phoebes left the nest and one remained. Left one at a time, stayed on patio, then returned to nest. Did this for 2 days. During this time, mom would continue to "catch" poop sac as it came out when they returned to nest. Never pooped on patio. I was sitting on patio chair, and one baby alighted on my knee (2 times) and pooped each time (not a sac, just regular). Mom catches poop and then would fly over to my wood fence and drop it on the top rail. What a mess! Today 3 have been gone for about 3 hours, now getting dark and I think they all returned to nest. Mom back feeding and taking away poop.

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Pat z5/6 SEMich

What a great forum! Thank you for sharing your info everyone.

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niles1

Here is an update on my phoebes: Two unusual events--

1) The phoebes have returned to the same nest three years in a row now, as of March 2017. Last year, though, when they returned they found that a wind storm had blown away their nest. But, they rebuilt. They raised a brood of 5 birds, then a second brood of 6 (maybe 7).

While raising the 2nd brood, it seemed (from my viewpoint), like they were building up the height of the nest, so it had higher walls. I was viewing from my office door, and eventually went outside for a better look. To my surprise, they had actually built a 2nd adjoining nest! My view from the office had been distorted and the 2nd nest was obscured. So, I was astounded to see that they had basically put an addition onto their nest. Movin' on up! [See photo: 1st nest is on the right]

The baby birds were hatched in the first nest, and there was a huge pile of baby birds. Maybe that is why the parents decided to build an addition. I thought maybe some of the baby birds would spread into the 2nd nest. What actually happened: ALL the baby birds transferred into the 2nd nest (which appears to be slightly deeper than the first nest). I didn't actually witness the transfer. Then, I saw one baby bird had switched back into the original nest. Interesting. I thought maybe they would start spreading out between the two nests. But, no. The lone baby bird returned back into the 2nd nest. So, the 2nd nest became their home from then on. There still was a huge pile of overflowing baby birds in that 2nd nest.

2) This year, my first sighting of the phoebes was March 29, 2017. I didn't really see them too much and did not see the parents sitting on the nest too much. Didn't see any heads popping up from the nest. Maybe I wasn't paying close attention, but suddenly, one day, I saw a large baby bird standing on the edge of the nest. What the? It was really big, its legs seemed very long, it did not have a long tail, and it was alone. Also, it was standing on the edge of the nest, not flapping its wings, but with its mouth open (waiting to be fed). He was so big and fluffy that I was wondering why he was still in the nest. I told my wife that there was a "baby Huey" in the nest (if you remember that old cartoon.) Something seemed very odd, not like any of the other baby phoebes I had seen.

I remembered having heard a news story just the previous week re: cowbirds. I didn't think anything about it at the time, but I wondered if this could possibly be a cowbird. I googled images of baby cowbirds. I came across one that looked identical to baby Huey. Yes, he was an evil cowbird. He fledged the next day.

Adult cowbirds lay their eggs in other bird species' (songbird) nests, distributing their many eggs among many nests. The songbirds raise them like their own. But, the baby cowbirds are larger, stronger, and more demanding than the rest of the brood. The cowbird baby gets fed by the parents to the detriment of the rest of the brood. In fact, the cowbird baby pushes the other baby birds out of the nest. So, that is why we had only one baby bird. I found that three other very tiny baby phoebes had been pushed out of the nest (and died). I'm not sure if they had hatched yet or not, because they were so small. There were shell pieces nearby also. [see photo of one very tiny baby on pavement]
The phoebes have started on their second brood now. There was one egg yesterday (5/25), and there is a second egg today. I am not sure how long it takes to get a clutch of eggs that they decide to incubate. But I am on the lookout for any speckled eggs (cowbird). I will remove any cowbird eggs that may appear. The phoebe eggs are white. So, if you are able to peer into your nests, be sure to get rid of any cowbird eggs.









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ctlady_gw

Here are our five from this year (2019) the day before they fledged -- no losses to cowbirds for the first time in several years! We've had Phoebes for almost a decade, and cowbirds for the last 3 or 4 years. We have two Phoebe nests, both on the front door ledge, one at each end. They built the second one two years ago, when cowbirds were consistently removing their eggs from the first nest. This year, they built BOTH nests up higher, neatened up with moss and more mud splattered everywhere, then settled into one. I have learned, through researching and questioning some naturalists, that although tempting (plus illegal), it can be risky to just remove the cowbird egg -- they can be vindictive and sometimes will be aware their egg is gone and literally attack the nest, doing as much or more damage than if you had left the egg. They can shred the nest, or destroy all the remaining eggs in one night. They always (with our nests, at least) remove at least one Phoebe egg each time they deposit one of their own; sometimes they remove two or more. They always leave one, which I've read is so the host bird doesn't abandon the nest. I asked a renowned environmentalist at a lecture last year what HE does about cowbirds (his talk was about native species and how to attract them to your yard) and he said he does remove the cowbird eggs, despite the fact that cowbirds are (unfortunately) protected just like the Phoebes


under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He also noted that cowbirds were originally native to the Midwest, not the Northeast, and as such he does not view them as native species in New England. An interesting stance. I have also tried another recommendation: temporarily remove the cowbird egg, shake it vigorously, then replace it. The shaking prevents it from hatching. Not sure how that differs from removing it in terms of the federal protection, but at least it means the remaining Phoebe eggs have a chance, since the cowbird believes it has successfully parasitized the nest and moves on. More info about (ugh) Cowbirds

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niles1

Our phoebes have returned again to last year's nest, and started building the walls up higher. There had been an older nest that was built on a tilt (pictured in a previous post of mine). But that tilted nest had fallen off during the winter. The phoebes appeared at the nest for the first time on March 28th (2019). It was very cold, and the winter lingered long into April and May (in SW Michigan). Since the insects were not out yet (due to unusual coldness, snow, etc) I was wondering if the phoebes could survive. I was busy and didn't pay much attention to the nest. Plus, it's sides were built up so high that I couldn't even see the adult birds in the nest. Anyway, we found broken eggshells beneath the nest, with yokes, dried up. Apparently, I missed the fact that a cowbird had apparently been raised and fledged and destroyed the phoebe eggs.


But the phoebes were back at the nest occasionally. I checked with a mirror, and was surprised to find 6 eggs -- all white except for one brown/speckled. Cowbird! So, I removed the cowbird egg ( and, yes, I do understand that technically this is not legal. But, these phoebes are under my protection, they are my family, and I think it is perfectly appropriate to help out family members. The phoebes (at least, the successful ones) can be viewed as being in a symbiotic relationship with humans -- just like dogs, or animals that live off of human food waste left out in garbage cans or picnic areas. That's my view, anyway.)


So far, no repurcussions from any angry cowbird parent. I have never actually seen a cowbird in real life. The eggs have apparently hatched as of today.I see feeding behavior going on, but haven't seen the little ones yet. One new thing: I saw the adult pheobe carry away a large eggshell from the nest (looked almost whole, but empty) -- something I've never seen before. I guess they keep a neat nest, and that's why they carry away poop also.

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jennifer Frost

I adore my Phoebes. They have nested under a low eave on our garage here in NH for the past 5 yrs. I too feel like they are part of our family and I feel very responsible for them so I help them in any way I can.One year a bear stood up and knocked all the babies out and ate them, he also trampled the mother to death who tried to save them. The next day the father called & called for them. We were all heartbroken.

The following year he did find a new mate.I await their arrival back to us with heavy anticipation and am filled with joy when they come back!Another year after hatching the whole nest disappeared I found it on the ground like a perfect little flying saucer, upright with 5 fluffy babies all sleeping!I placed the nest back on the ledge of the nest box and put a 4" fence of chicken wire all around the ledge.The parents were not bothered by it. In fact I did this again this year after hatching (right away) no more nest blowing out!I This chicken wire fence has helped from predators too.I take this away to wash nest box, an because I do not think they would build their nest initially with the fencing up.Once the babies are hatched they don't abandon them after I staple the wire around the box ledge. They re-use the nest built in spring twice then I remove it and wash the box as it can be filled with mites. They rebuild in the spring.

I regards to peoples comments about the babies flying off if disturbed. Yes,they can be disturbed and be forced to fly away too soon before fully ready so I never go near the babies ever after they are 1 wk old.They can be in danger if they fledge before ready, may have to stay on the ground and can be killed by a cat etc.

Don't you miss them when they are gone!

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catherinet

Hey Niles.....I know these posts are sorta old, but that pic you put of the black and white thing next to the leaf.......are you saying that's a dead baby phoebe? It's hard to know for sure.........but it looks almost exactly like the poop from the hen turkey that's been hanging around here! Is it possible that that's turkey poop? :)

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niles1

Hello catherinet....Yes, the small black and white thing next to the leaf is a dead (possibly never-hatched) baby phoebe. There were two more similar ones, also. And, pieces of egg shell. So, that's why I'm not sure that they ever really hatched. This nest is only about 6 ft from my office door, and there is a patio outside the door. We have turkeys in the area (in the woods) but never outside my door. THAT would be cool, though!

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catherinet

Thanks niles. We've lived here for 37 years and this is the first turkey we've ever seen around here. It comes and goes across our lawn, into the woods. She's fun to watch. A couple times she took a dust bath in our gravel drive. She surely must be lonely. I wonder if someone raised her around here? We do have turkey farms around here......but I believe all those turkeys are white. This one is dark, like the wild kind. It's a neat, new addition to our wildlife here!

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niles1

The wild turkeys are dark, and they are much, much skinnier than the domesticated type. The wild turkeys live mostly on the ground but can walk/run very fast -- much faster than you can run. And, the wild turkeys can actually fly a bit: they roost up in tree branches. They are "sloppy" flyers, but they definitely can get high into trees. The domesticated turkeys cannot fly at all. They are too heavy.


RE: my phoebes--HERE IS AN ODDITY THIS YEAR: The first brood was apparently hijacked by a baby cowbird. The second brood had 5 phoebe eggs + one cowbird egg (which I discarded). The overflowing nest of baby phoebes seemed to have just 4 baby birds -- but, it's so difficult to be sure when they are all squirming and sitting on one another and moving all around. Anyway, they fledged. Last year, we had 3 broods, so I thought maybe we'd have the same this year. (The previous year we had only 2 broods, and I thought that was always the way it was.) So, I checked the nest, and there was ONE EGG in it. I wasn't sure if this was a newly laid egg, or if it was a never-hatched egg. I saw the female phoebe return to sit on the nest a few times, so I thought she was in the process of laying another clutch of eggs. From my past experience, one egg/day is normal. But, the female then disappeared, and there remained only that single egg. So, I guess the single egg was simply a non-hatched egg from the second brood.


QUESTION: I don't know how common it is to have an unhatched egg remain Does anyone know?


The fact that the female was apparently returning to lay on the unhatched egg is curious. Maybe the unhatched egg prevented her from laying a 3rd clutch of eggs. QUESTION: Does anyone know? She apparently gave up on hatching that egg.


Another VERY odd thing: I was going to take a photo of the single egg in the nest (using a mirror). But, when I checked the nest today, the egg was GONE ! (?). I can only assume that some creature climbed up and took the egg. I noticed that the nest, while still in place and in good shape, seemed to have been a bit disturbed. It had some tufts sticking up in the air, like fuzz, that wasn't there before. I know we have some baby woodchucks around. QUESTIONS: Do they climb? Do they eat eggs? What else might take the egg?

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jennifer Frost

Niles, The Cornell Ornithology lab is the best website for bid info and I take a lot of informative courses for beginning birders on it.It states Phoebes have 1-2 broods typically. My 5yr in a ow Phoebes has just had a 2nd brood last y and this yr. Their are currently 5, 16 day old babies that should fledge any minute in the nest box on our garage. So many things eat baby birds and their eggs. Other birds like Blue jays,Hawks,Owls,Bears,reptiles like Snakes& Lizards,Cats,squirrels, Chipmunks, Weasels,rats,Fox,Raccoons,Crow,Possums.Everything wants can eat them! Isn't it a wonder that any actually survive.Then they have to migrate some thousands of miles. So many don't make it as they hit buildings,get lost ,starve etc.I use to want to be a bird but they have so much against them I certainly do admire their drive to produce and protect their young.When they are nesting in my yard I do everything to assist them.Check out the Cornell website!

Oh, I don't think woodchucks eat baby birds

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In10sitty

Are these Phoebes? I stumbled across this sight white trying to identify these cuties.


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ctlady_gw


Sure look like it! Here are ours from this year:

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jennifer Frost

They look like my current baby Phoebes, but try not to disturb them anymore as they will get frightened and take flight before ready.They will never go back to the nest once they leave it even at night so they need to stay in it as long as they can.

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niles1

Looks like phoebes to me, too. And, the nest looks like phoebe nest.

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susanzone5 (NY)

I learnd so much here about the poop, so thank you! I, too, have returning phoebes every year in the same nest.


An interesting fact about cowbirds. They originally followed the bison on the midwest plains, therefore couldn't make a nest because they were always traveling. That's why they laid their eggs in other birds' nests. Survival of the fittest. Also why birds lay so many eggs and have so many broods, so at least a couple will survive and keep the population numbers intact.

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ctlady_gw

One more comment: our Phoebes have had two broods some years, only one others... so far this year, they had one (completely successful -- no losses!) brood of 5, and while I can hear them in the woods around us calling to each other, there's no sign of any more nesting activity for a second brood. I wonder if the heat is an issue (sure would be for me!!) -- does anyone know if breeding is impacted by extreme heat? Also, another tip for any of you with our situation: our nests are on the front door lintel, with the door in a slightly recessed entry porch and flanked by traditional glass sidelights. Between wanting to monitor for cowbird thefts and wanting to know if the female was on the nest if I had to work outside near the door, we bought what I think is a replacement car mirror from an auto supply place. It has a swivel mount, and we installed it on the top of the little porch ceiling. Depending on which nest they use, we can adjust it so we get a view of the nest from inside the house, looking out one of the sidelights at the mirror. It has worked wonderfully for us and allows us to give the birds a little more privacy, given they have chosen our front door for their home... :)


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ctlady_gw

And while I'm posting pictures... one more tip for you bird lovers (you probably already know it but it's new for me!): when the holidays are over, move those wreaths to an out-of-the-way spot (I put ours on the back side of our barn, where I didn't have to watch them brown out all spring!) for the birds. We had two on the barn and robins built nests in BOTH ... they only used one in the end (guess the other didn't meet building code or something :) but it was amazing to watch. Those nests went together in just a day or two! So don't pitch those wreaths, recycle!




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In10sitty

Susanzone5NY - I'm from NY too! :)


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niles1

I like the idea of a mounted convex mirror. I've always used a small stepladder and a pivoting inspection mirror with a long handle. My nest, tho, only has a few inches above it before the overhang, and they increased the height of the sides this year. So, I'm not sure I can get a convex mirror to properly reflect the nest from the top. But, I will give it a try.

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summeresque

I just finished reading this whole thread and I appreciate all the valuable information. I had my first pair of Eastern Phoebe's move in this year. The babies just fledged today and I loved watching their erratic first flights. From what I gather the babies will not return to the nest tonight? How soon might mom and dad lay their next brood?

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niles1

I don't know where you are located, but in Michigan the phoebes have just returned during the past week and have not even built a nest yet. It is still very cold, with temps going below freezing at night, occasional snow. The phoebes around us seem to have a temporary "nest" where a downspout curves under our roof. We've noticed them there in previous years, and they never have stayed there for egg-laying purposes.But the "nest" is just a very small collection of stuff. They then seem to move to their "permanent nest" later on, when it gets warmer. (I am only assuming this is the same pair at the 2 nesting places. Can't really be 100% sure.)


I removed their old nest from their usual place because it was all ratty-looking and some animal had made it disheveled. I am assuming/hoping they will rebuild anew. I see them flitting around the old nesting place, but no nest building yet. I did install a convex mirror so as to be able to see inside the future nest. I hope that mirror does not discourage them from building.

As for your question re: the next brood-- it happens very quickly. I think it probably occurs within 2 weeks of the fledging of the prior brood. Can't recall exactly, but it the nest will likely be occupied on and off for the next 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks. Then, the eggs will appear. Once fledged, I've never seen any of the fledglings return to the nest. I assume that they never return to the nest. But, I could be wrong.

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ctlady_gw

I don't think they return to the nest after fledging but they do remain nearby ... ours hang around in the big maple tree in front of the house (also their first stop on their first flight). I love seeing them still in the immediate area of "home" for a few weeks, sometimes. I can't recall the time to the second brood. We have had years with terrible cowbird problems, and other years without any issue. They built an entire second nest, on the other end of the front door lintel, one year, after cowbirds repeatedly savaged their eggs. They just started over. They do reuse the nest from year to year -- right now in northwest CT, they are around and building. They are clearly not finished but they have added a number of nice design updates to the existing nest including fresh moss. (That means there will be fresh mud on my entryway as well!) They are just such lovely birds to have around. The first bird Audubon ever banded for research because they were so tame!

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jennifer Frost

Hello Phoebe lovers,

I live in NH and have had my Phoebe pair arrive for the 6th yr now! I always document when they arrive each yr, when they finish nest building,fledging takes place etc and refer to this each year. Mine are on the garage under eaves that is not very high up. We have an open ledge box there. I watch out for them very closely and have had to step in to help a few times.

I always remove their old nest as it gets full of fly larvae, fleas, waste etc. If this is not done these insects can cause the babies to get anemia and die.A few yrs ago once the babies of 5 were about 10 days old we came home from work and noticed that the nest was gone!

We investigated and saw bear foot prints in the ground underneath the nest. The nest had been flung out and the babies all eaten.(bears will eat baby birds) One of the adults was trampled on the ground, we presume while trying to defend the babies. We were devastated. The next am the male called his heart out on a branch while facing the nest box, the saddest sound you could ever imagine. I kept telling him how sorry I was. He stopped by again in the fall and stood on the nest box on his way migrating. The next yr he arrived again and I wondered if he would find a new mate. The male always arrives 1 wk prior to the female. We were thrilled that a new female did come, but being newbie she built her nest on the slanted roof instead of inside on the nest box ledge.Maybe the male conveyed to her that it would be safer, after the bear had been able to reach the baby birds last yr. They built the nest,5 babies hatched and all was well for about 7 days. Then again, the nest was suddenly gone! Both parents were upset, calling, calling, we felt they did not know were they were. I searched around, no nest, no feathers no footprints, where could they be! Finally, I searched again in the tall ferns under the nest and behold, a flyer saucer looking nest with 5 perfect upright and sleeping babies in it! Not a peep. I then had a dilemma, how could I get the nest to stay onto the slanted peak of the roof? Well, I couldn't so I place some grass inside the nestbox ledge, put the nest inside and then took 4" tall chicken wire and stapled it to the box from side to side.

The parents flew down,perched on the wire and peered at the babies.They then flew off and brought some moths to feed the babies! All was well.All 5 fledged, then they fledged 5 more! We are always prepared to help as needed.

Please check on the Cornell Ornithology nest watch program, you can take a few minutes instruction and become a "certified nest watcher". Phoebe's are a bird they are interested in getting information on as their numbers have gone down.You then submit your observations to them (can download a nest watch form). I have done this on our Phoebes for years.

Lastly, every fall we have had fledglings stop by on their way migrating. They stand in and on their nest box for a short time as if to say, this is where I grew up!

Please don't let your cats outside so they do not disturb nesting birds.

Phoebes are the best!

Jenn, NH


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jennifer Frost

Sorry, one more answer to a comment above.Yes, baby phoebes will fledge early out of fear before they are ready too. This is very difficult for the parents to continue to try to feed them and also they are vulnerable to predators being smaller then they should be when leaving the nest.

When they are 10 days stop going near them so this will not happen.

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summeresque

niles1 - I'm down in central Texas. The phoebe's are usually here year round. I don't envy you the cold weather you're still having. Thanks for your response. I'm looking forward to observing their next brood.

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niles1

Oh. Our phoebes appear in SW Michigan shortly before it is warm. They "hang out" but don't build nests right away. I don't think there are many flying insects yet. So, they must be hungry. I don't really know how they survive without insects flying around. Maybe this is an example of climate change. Maybe it used to be warm here by mid-April. It should get warmer by the end of April.

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Clifton Lyons Design

We moved into a new house and the Phoebes were here before us. I love them! They nested under our porch, in a new nest they built this year, as the old nest disintegrated over the winter. Last year there were no Cowbirds, but this year there are three in the area. I suspected the Cowbirds possibly took the single egg from the first clutch from the nest, as I found it cracked and in a corner under the porch. (It could have blown out of the nest too, due to the high winds of the past Spring.) The nest is tiny. The Mother bird sat on the nest faithfully for 16 days, and then it appeared both parents were busily feeding babies for about 18 days. I saw the male Phoebe happily catching his dinner in our giant crabapple tree last Sunday, at sunset. But Monday am, the 18th day, they were all gone. We have a dozen dogs in our care, (two litters), so I did not get to check in on them until after nine am. The nest was empty and both parents and babies were gone. Do you think they all got away safely? Do they fledge at certain times during the day? I do not know how many fledglings there were, but suspected two. The birds had the yard to themselves all throughout their nesting time, but we have chipmunks and an occasional visit by a pair of Blue Jays to the yard. I put suet out for the Woodpeckers, but not in our yard, in a trail area in the woods nearby, and not near the nest. There is a Kestral about at times I suspect. I stopped putting out seed to avoid drawing too much activity while the Phoebes were nesting. There are Red Tailed Hawks nearby too, but they are never in this close. They are never seen in the yard. I have seen them high in the trees, across the pasture of a house a mile or so away. The nice thing about our yard is it is long and narrow, shaded by tall trees bordering a small forest with a stream. The brush behind our yard is low and very thick and protective. The yard itself is protected by a split rail fence with chicken wire (originally for the dogs), but I configured a pen for them and used our front yard for the dogs, so the birds would not be disturbed while they were nesting. It made for a great deal of work for me!


I was surprised to find the Mother bird had returned to the nest two days later, while we had the dogs all back in the yard for a game of fetch, but she has not been seen back at the nest now in two days. Last year we had four adult dogs, and the Phoebes were not put off by them, but this year we have a bonanza.


I wonder if the birds are all okay. I miss seeing them in the yard, and had hoped to catch the brood leaving. We saw them leave last year and it was so exciting.


We have not heard the male or have seen anything of them in four days expect the one visit by the female.


What do others think happened? Would she want to try to raise another brood? This would be a third attempt. I had a nest box recently built from a plan from Nestwatch, and would love advice as to how to successfully place it a bit further away from our house. We need the yard back for the dogs.


It was so nice to read everyone’s comments. I was so sad to read about the bear getting the Phoebes. Nice to hear about the success stories. It is amazing any of them survive.


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niles1

I would suspect the young birds fledged like they were supposed to. Maybe something scared them, and they left a bit early and suddenly. That happened to me when I opened the door -- and, poof, they all suddenly took off. Our phoebes always had 5 eggs, so I'm surprised you say you think there were just two fledglings. Maybe you just couldn't see them all? They tend to be in a pile, and it can be difficult to count when they are al squirming around. Other than when I accidentally scared my brood away, I have never witnessed any of them fledgen their own. I don't know if there is a particular time of day that they prefer for fledging. It's a good question.


Your pair of adult phoebes will likely have another clutch of eggs soon. They tend to have two broods per season. from what I understand. But, I know that we had 3 broods in one season. So, the two broods per season is not necessarily the limit. ( I call them broods. I don't know if that is correct, but it is understandable.)


ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO ALL : I apparently made a big mistake when I installed a slim convex mirror to better view the goings-on in the nest. Another person on this thread had installed a convex round mirror, and they have a photo of it installed. I thought it was a good idea. But, my nest location required me to get a narrow 2" wide x 6" long convex mirror, attached to a bendable short flexy handle with a clip on the end. The mirror setup works great, and it was installed fairly close to the nest under the eve. I set this up last year, after the birds had gone for the season. This season, with the mirror in place, they have avoided nesting there. I hadn't thought about this as an issue -- but, apparently it is. At the end of winter, there happened to be a bird (not sure what kind) that was pecking furiously at the mirror. I didn't know what the sound was or where it was coming from at first, because I had never heard anything like it. I finally located it outside, at the mirror/nest set-up. The bird spent hours pecking at the mirror, first one side, then looking behind it (probably wondering where the intruder was), then back to the front -- over and over and over. I felt sorry for him. But, he eventually left. Surprisingly, he returned the next day, doing the same activity. I have since removed the mirror.


This pecking at mirrors is a behavior that I remember from having parakeets. I should have thought this "mirror thing" through more carefully. But, it just didn't pop into my head at the time. So, this year, the pheobes (if it is the same pair, I don't know) have nested under our deck, where it is not easy to see them. They apparently did not like the mirror. This is just a word of caution about mirrors. Now I know.

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Clifton Lyons Design

Niles1, I bought mealworms for the Phoebes and scattered them under a milk crate they adopted as a perch during the early days of feeding, just on cold days. I was afraid of attracting other birds but worried about the fledglings! So many thanks for the note.

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Alex Zelli

Hello there, I just wanted to quickly thank everyone for such fabulous information! I have had the Say Pheobes nest over my neighbors porch and have been watching like clockwork. My problem was I have two cats and have literally been running out the front door when I hear the alarm call to make sure the cats are not bothering them. Fortunately, I have a water mister that I used that seems to be a great deterent for the one cat who was interested. I feel a little bad for him as it is his house, but he can easily go somewhere else lol. We live in Southern California and it gets super hot especially lately so I have used the bottle to cool them down when they were overheating. You can tell because all their little mouths were open. I did it from quite a distance and only a couple of mist pumps but they are all good and doing well. I can't believe the dedication of the parents swooping in all hours to feed these chubby little babies, I am so impressed! We have four, and I was worried that one would fall out and the cat would get him when I wasn't there, so I put a large potted plant under the nest but elevated on a small table so they would have shelter and safety just in case.


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Alex Zelli

oh ps. my neighbor doesn't want them over his door and will remove the nest, will they come back if I put the nest over our door?

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Linda Lyons Creative Design

You should tell your neighbor they eat all off the annoying flying nests that bite us and how wonderful to support nature for the 32 or so days it takes to increase the declining numbers of these wonderful birds. The female chooses the nest spot so you could always make this nest box and hang it to enticed them to stay nearby? https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/eastern-phoebe/

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Alex Zelli

I know they are amazing at fly catching!

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jennifer Frost

Nice pictures!

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niles1

Ask the neighbor if they can simply wait to remove the nest until after they fledge, at least! That's only a few more days. I hope they are not saying that they will destroy the nest right now. Then, if you move the nest to your property, I have no background to answer the question -- but, my gut feeling is that they will not follow the nest. They may even try to rebuild the nest at the same place unless your neighbor puts something in place to scare them away. The concept of creating an area/ nest box to entice them to your yard, as suggested by previous respondent, is worth a try. But, definitely take that nest and place it in a good place, and see if it might work. Don't really know if you don't try.

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HU-482959753

Thank you for the valuable information. The nest looked so tall and precarious that we added a second slat (in foreground) and perches this year.


We have had phoebe's return over the last 3 years to our porch nest site. Each time raising only one brood. This year we had 5 and all 5 fledged. I missed the first 3 actually leave, but observed them prior and after for the remaining two.


It seemed as though throughout the day one by one they would go after being joined by an adult, the others remaining in the nest.


One by one then they would preen and practice stationary flight movements while a parent would fly in and "instruct" on the movements to be practiced!


Preening one side, then the other, then the chest and finally the tail! Wing stretches, flapping, little take off hopping practice and fights from the nest to the nest deck and back again. Head lowering practice as they do just before flight, head raising as they need once they fly from under the porch eve.


The adult went from feeding and cleaning the nest, to not bringing food, to making these movements (say three at a time). Only to fly away then the baby would appear to practice said movements! The adult would come back and give instruction on other movements and leave yet again for the baby to practice! It really was fascinating! Then movements would be repeated, if not up to flight standards! The last time this happened the final baby was hunkered down low in the nest after performing a series of practice flight movements and preparedness following an instruction session with the adult. It appeared to have feelings of being overwhelmed, as it was left by the parent and started breathing very fast as if scolded. Then at just before 8 p.m., it mustered up the gumption to get up and perform the last preflight tests on the nest edge and mom flew in one last time with head arched high to low as if to say come on now you can do it keep your head low..the baby snuggled in for one last time leaning into the mom and rubbing its head up and down against the adults chest as if to say, "Thank you" while they stood opposite beak to tail


and then took flight. With mom flying out afterwards. Amazing!



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HU-482959753

Sorry the above photos were condensed upon upload, making them look wider and lower.

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jennifer Frost

Lovely! Thanks for sharing.

My current 4 should be taking flight soon here in NH

Last yr, 5 days later mom was right back on nest and

safely fledged 10 babies last summer, amazing

parents 10 kids, can you imagine!

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Susan Thomas

Our 6 phoebes fledged - three on June 22 and the remaining 3 on June 23. This picture was taken June 21. We have not seen them since they fledged, although I hear the phoebe calling nearby. I feel like an "empty nester"!

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niles1

Wow, you had 6! I've only ever seen 5 in a nest, so far.

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anniesjacuzzi

What great timing for this thread to be resurrected! I had a new nest built on my light fixture at my back door. It was a bird I was unfamiliar with so I scoured my bird books until I found that it was a Eastern Phoebe! I have a perfect lookout to view them from my kitchen area...the only caveat is that now I can’t use my gas grill! I think the babies have just hatched but I don’t want to scare Mom and Dad so I’ve been staying away. I’ve learned so much from the above posts though and I’m so excited to learn that they will return each year (hopefully). I have many bears that visit my yard and was sad to hear the story about the bear. The bears I have love my garbage on garbage day and my bird seed since I still feed my beautiful birds! I can’t wait to continue on with my Phoebe experience like you guys have had:). Thank you for sharing your wonderful pictures too.

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sillycat41

I feel sad.... just spooked the little phoebes and the 4 of them flew out of the nest at the same time into the trees! I was looking for some confirmation that they were ready and will be able to feed themselves. Found this site and it seems that they were ready. Hope so.

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jennifer Frost

It is hard not to feel bad when we accidentally cause them to fledge early. I had that happen and I too felt terrible but it's made me be more careful to stay away from the nest now. If they could fly and did not fall down to the ground they should be okay, the parents will feed them until they can catch bugs on their own.

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Linda Lyons Creative Design

We have a third clutch going! The first failed because I found an egg on the ground after high winds. I saw an adult feeding an adolescent the other day, (second attempt) and Mum and Dad are now busy-busy feeding the new clutch. I can’t see how many they are feeding. Fingers crossed. They are dear little things.

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sillycat41

I'm still feeling sad that I spooked the 4 babies. I keep seeing a phoebe or two hanging around near where the nest was. Is it the parents looking for their babies or the babies looking for their nest? I keep hoping because they could fly so well... up into the trees... that they could also feed themselves. Also hping they'll reuse the nest. This time I'll stay away!

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Paula Kipke

I feel bad because I spooked my five babies yesterday and they all flew away and have not come back. Perhaps they were ready to go?

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HU-369917800

I have 5 babies on my deck on a platform we put up. Today One got bored and hopped off the platform and has now disappeared into the great outdoors.

The others said “not today!!” I know they’ll stay close for a bit, but any idea how long? How long until my dog and I can safely be in the backyard again?



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Linda Lyons Creative Design

I love these shots! Ours left mid-week and I could not see how many we had. Dark rafters. These will leave soon, and you have been just so kind to let them keep your yard.

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