Friday, April 11, 2014

Eastern Phoebes and Brown-headed Cowbirds

The Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe)  have returned from their winter grounds to breed.  They are one of my favorite birds to watch as they perch then perform aerial maneuvers to catch insects on the wing. They seem to prefer the trees and shrubs that abut the wooded area and stream behind our home.  Sometimes they will use the kids' pitchback as a resting spot, wagging their tails up and down before swooping off.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

These monogamous little fly-catchers build their nests of mud and dried plant materials often on ledges with overhead cover.  Last spring I came upon this phoebe nest while walking on a trail.  It was built on the roots of a tree which had been toppled after a storm.

The black arrow is pointing at the phoebe's nest

Close up of the phoebe's nest made of mud, dried grasses, pine needles and moss

I've noticed quite a few brown-headed cowbirds ( Molothrus ater ) around also.  These brood parasites often choose phoebe nests as the location for their eggs.

Male brown-headed cowbird

Drab gray female brown-headed cowbird on left; male brown-headed cowbird on right

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