Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eastern Phoebes building a nest

Several weeks ago an Eastern Phoebe pair decided to build  a nest in a corner space above the main entrance to our house. Wrong spot.  When I discovered the beginnings of a cup- shaped mud and moss construction, I scraped it off, but they kept returning with more mud and moss to the same site until we wedged a piece of foam rubber into the space sealing it off. 

There are lots of nooks and crannies around our house, shed, and workshop and I hoped they would find a more suitable spot - which they did, at least in their opinion, right above the back entrance to our porch. One or the other bird kept fluttering up at the upper portion of the porch door. Puzzled I watched it for a while. When I finally walked around I discovered a bead of mud plastered along the trim above the porch door. It didn't make much sense to me at first, but after a while they concentrated their efforts on a midpoint and started cementing together a nest. I think both the male and the female participated but can't be sure. 

They were messy, dropping mud and moss on the steps below. We decided to let them be and I locked the back door which we weren't using much anyway.

Gradually they turned the mess into a neat cup-shaped nest.  Then for a long time nothing. It was too high and too deep for a nesting bird to be visible over the rim. For a time I thought they had abandoned the nest until, a couple of weeks later, I started hearing the typical chorus of begging nestlings. 

The parents used a clothes line fastened to the edge of the porch as a perch when approaching the nest.  They were easy to distinguish from each other because one of  them looked flat-topped having lost feathers on its head.

The nestlings started to be visible over the rim and grew and grew...

I was going to get some better photos, but the very next day the three chicks had fledged and departed our yard. 

There are young ones all around. Throughout the day I am hearing, in the trees above or the adjacent hay fields, the nasal begging calls of young crows. Small fast moving juveniles keep chirping and twittering in the thickets along the edge of our lot.  A couple of days ago a Mockingbird, giving off sharp warning calls, was dive-bombing my dog as he trotted along a wall of shrubs and trees behind our supermarket.  The bird swooped down repeatedly, but my dog was totally oblivious to these mock attacks.  Another adult was sitting on a strand of wires above. There must have been a nest nearby. 

There isn't  much else going on but I am reading that shore bird migration is starting soon. Happy birding!


  1. Awesome Hilke! I hadn't seen young Phoebes before you you sure got some great looks! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great close up photos but they sure made a mess above your door.

  3. Amazing, large nest for such a little bird! Love the faces of the little ones on the line!

  4. Very cool! Love the photos! The one on the clothesline is really nice!

  5. i'm glad our phoebe pairs nest in our barn. this year they've raised two clutches, so far. so cute!

  6. Hilke, what a saga this was! You got some nice shots though. I love the coy shot of the phoebe looking over its shoulder. The eye looks so soft and sweet!

  7. great captures; beautiful bird/s

  8. Not really sure it's good manners to build over a door - but it must have been fun to watch.

    Nice story and pictures.

    Stewart M – Australia

    PS: sorry about the lack of thumbnails this week – will get it right for WBW #3

  9. That's such a cute shot of the Phoebe perched on the clothesline!

  10. What a treat to be able to watch all this, great photo documentation as well.

  11. Hi Hilke

    The Eastern Phoebe is one of the most common birds around the farm and the cabin so I enjoyed your post Swallows are the ones nesting on the houses though, we had Cliff Swallows nsting on the front of my mother-in-laws house and Barb Swallows nesting on the porch of our cabin. Nice when the birds come to you as long as they are not too messy.


  12. They were a bit messy weren't they? I'm glad they moved to a better home to lay their eggs. Lovely birds.

  13. you just know they are home birds when you see them hanging out the washing .....


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