Overview

Brief Summary

Sayornis phoebe

A sparrow-sized (6 ½ -7 inches) flycatcher, the Eastern Phoebe is most easily identified by its gray-green body, pale breast, and notched tail. This species is most easily distinguished from the similarly patterned Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) by that species’ conspicuous white wing bars. Male and female Eastern Phoebes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Eastern Phoebe breeds across much of the northeastern United States and south-central Canada. In winter, this species may be found in the southeastern U.S. and northern Mexico. Eastern Phoebes are present all year in portions of the interior southeast and the Mid-Atlantic. Eastern Phoebes breed in a variety of forest habitats, including forests with deciduous trees, evergreen trees, or a mix of both. This species generally utilizes similarly-structured habitats in winter as in summer. Eastern Phoebes primarily eat small flying insects, but may also eat fruits and berries during the winter and on migration when insects are unavailable. In eastern forests in summer, the Eastern Phoebe may be most easily observed flying out from high perches to capture insect prey. This species may also be observed on a high perch singing its characteristic ‘phoe-be’ song. Eastern Phoebes are primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least Concern

  • Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
  • Sayornis phoebe. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • Weeks Jr., Harmon P. 2011. Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/094
  • eBird Range Map - Eastern Phoebe. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
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Distribution

The breeding range of the Eastern Phoebe extends from northern Canada down into the southeastern U.S. It winters primarily in the southeastern U.S., with especially heavy concentrations in Texas and Florida. The winter range can also reach well into Mexico. It has only been recorded twice outside of North America, both times in 1987 in Great Britain (Weeks, 1994).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: northeastern British Columbia and western and southern Mackenzie southeast to Great Lakes region, east to Nova Scotia, south to southern Alberta, southwestern South Dakota, central Texas, Arkansas, central Alabama, and South Carolina. NON-BREEDING: Chihuahua, central Texas, Gulf states, and Virginia south to southern Mexico.

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Geographic Range

The breeding range of the Eastern Phoebe extends from northern Canada down into the southeastern U.S. It winters primarily in the southeastern U.S., with especially heavy concentrations in Texas and Florida. The winter range can also reach well into Mexico. It has only been recorded twice outside of North America, both times in 1987 in Great Britain (Weeks, 1994).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Range

Breeds e Canada and US; winters to se Mexico.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Morphology

The Eastern Phoebe is medium-sized flycatcher, dull in coloration to blend in with its surrounding woodland habitat. It ranges from 142-168 mm, and the male is generally larger than the female. The plumage of the male also tends to be darker, but neither of these characteristics is a failsafe means of determining the bird's sex. The upperparts of the adults are olive or grayish-brown, and the underparts tend to be pale buff. Juveniles have white bars on their wings. The bill is black (Terres, 1980; Weeks, 1994).

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average mass: 21.6 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.3449 W.

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Physical Description

The Eastern Phoebe is medium-sized flycatcher, dull in coloration to blend in with its surrounding woodland habitat. It ranges from 142-168 mm, and the male is generally larger than the female. The plumage of the male also tends to be darker, but neither of these characteristics is a failsafe means of determining the bird's sex. The upperparts of the adults are olive or grayish-brown, and the underparts tend to be pale buff. Juveniles have white bars on their wings. The bill is black (Terres, 1980; Weeks, 1994).

Average mass: 21.6 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.3449 W.

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Size

Length: 18 cm

Weight: 20 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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The Eastern Phoebe occurs in woodlands and in woody vegetation. They seem to prefer deciduous woodlands, and perhaps edge forest, and open habitats rather than mature or closed forests. There is some evidence that they prefer to be near water, but the availability of suitable nesting habitat limits them more often than preference (Weeks, 1994).

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Comments: Open woodland, situations with scattered trees, farmlands, and suburbs, usually near water. Nests on cliffs, banks, or in ravines in open and riparian woodland or farmland with scattered trees; under bridges and eaves; in culverts or wells; sometimes in buildings. May renovate old nest, such as that of the barn swallow or phoebe. Formerly, natural sites were used; now nests mainly on human-built structures.

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The Eastern Phoebe occurs in woodlands and in woody vegetation. They seem to prefer deciduous woodlands, and perhaps edge forest, and open habitats rather than mature or closed forests. There is some evidence that they prefer to be near water, but the availability of suitable nesting habitat limits them more often than preference (Weeks, 1994).

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Breeding populations in Canada and most of U.S. migrate south for winter. Arrives in breeding areas March-April. Present all year in part of southern U.S.; migratory status in those areas?

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Trophic Strategy

The Eastern Phoebe is predominantly insectivorous, consuming mostly flying insects such as wasps, ants, flies and wild bees. Invertebrates such as grasshoppers, airborn spiders, hairworms from the water and even small fishes from shallow water round out their diet. It has been observed that it can survive on fruit when insects are unavailable. Flycatching is its main means of obtaining food, usually done from a perch less than 10 meters off the ground. It also occasionally chases flying insects to the ground, pounces on insects on the ground, and picks insects from trees while hovering. Its most active foraging period occurs in the morning (Terres, 1980; Weeks, 1994).

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Comments: Eats mainly insects caught by flycatching (also picks insects from foliage and from ground via short flight from perch in tree or shrub), also eats some small fruits and seeds in cooler months (Bent 1942); sometimes also small frogs or fishes.

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Food Habits

The Eastern Phoebe is predominantly insectivorous, consuming mostly flying insects such as wasps, ants, flies and wild bees. Invertebrates such as grasshoppers, airborn spiders, hairworms from the water and even small fishes from shallow water round out their diet. It has been observed that it can survive on fruit when insects are unavailable. Flycatching is its main means of obtaining food, usually done from a perch less than 10 meters off the ground. It also occasionally chases flying insects to the ground, pounces on insects on the ground, and picks insects from trees while hovering. Its most active foraging period occurs in the morning (Terres, 1980; Weeks, 1994).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
124 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
124 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 10.3 years
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Reproduction

The Eastern Phoebe is monogamous and usually double-brooded. Pair formation occurs quickly after they arrive on the breeding grounds in spring. No recurrent courtship displays have been documented. The female always initiates copulation, usually in the mornings only, during the male's pre-dawn song. After pairs are formed, nest-building begins immediately, which helps them to establish territory. The female chooses the nest site. She alone builds it, though the male is with her continuously while she builds, most likely guarding his mate. The nests are made of mud, moss, some leaves, and lined with fine grass, stems and hair. Phoebes often reuse nests, of their own species or another species, though never without renovating them first. They also often build over old eggs or dead young. The nests are always built with cover overhead. Suitable nesting habitat for Eastern Phoebes is limited, so there is strong site attachment in this species. Often the same pair will breed at the same site for several successive years. Eastern phoebes keep the same nest and same mate for both broods. The laying of the first clutch usually begins 7-14 days after the nest is complete. The clutch can be 2-6, but usually 5 eggs are laid. The eggs are white with little gloss, and they sometimes have a few reddish-brown dots on one end. Incubation lasts about 16 days, less for the second brood which occurs in summer. Incubation is carried out solely by the female, and the male does not feed her while she sits. Most eggs hatch within a 24-hour period, and the female removes the eggshells from the nest immediately afterwards. Though the chicks are able to fly by day 15, they usually do not fledge until day 16 or 18. Both males and females feed the young. The young are capable of breeding in their first year.

The Eastern Phoebe is strongly parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbird females often remove phoebe eggs in the process of leaving their own, and the egg is rarely rejected by the phoebe female. In most of these nests only the cowbird egg hatches, but if the phoebe egg does hatch, it will do so a few days later and the phoebe chick will usually starve. The fledgling success of cowbirds in parasitized phoebe nests is about 60-70%, about the same rate of success as phoebes in unparasitized nests (Weeks, 1994).

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 16 days.

Average eggs per season: 5.

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Clutch size 3-8 (commonly 5). Usually 2 broods per year, sometimes 3. Incubation 14-17 days, by female. Young tended by both parents (Condor 95:57-62), leave nest at 15-17 days, fed by parents for 2-3 weeks more. See Hill and Gates (1988) for information on nesting success. Common cowbird host (may cover cowbird egg with nest material).

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The Eastern Phoebe is monogamous and usually double-brooded. Pair formation occurs quickly after they arrive on the breeding grounds in spring. No recurrent courtship displays have been documented. The female always initiates copulation, usually in the mornings only, during the male's pre-dawn song. After pairs are formed, nest-building begins immediately, which helps them to establish territory. The female chooses the nest site. She alone builds it, though the male is with her continuously while she builds, most likely guarding his mate. The nests are made of mud, moss, some leaves, and lined with fine grass, stems and hair. Phoebes often reuse nests, of their own species or another species, though never without renovating them first. They also often build over old eggs or dead young. The nests are always built with cover overhead. Suitable nesting habitat for Eastern Phoebes is limited, so there is strong site attachment in this species. Often the same pair will breed at the same site for several successive years. Eastern phoebes keep the same nest and same mate for both broods. The laying of the first clutch usually begins 7-14 days after the nest is complete. The clutch can be 2-6, but usually 5 eggs are laid. The eggs are white with little gloss, and they sometimes have a few reddish-brown dots on one end. Incubation lasts about 16 days, less for the second brood which occurs in summer. Incubation is carried out solely by the female, and the male does not feed her while she sits. Most eggs hatch within a 24-hour period, and the female removes the eggshells from the nest immediately afterwards. Though the chicks are able to fly by day 15, they usually do not fledge until day 16 or 18. Both males and females feed the young. The young are capable of breeding in their first year.

The Eastern Phoebe is strongly parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbird females often remove phoebe eggs in the process of leaving their own, and the egg is rarely rejected by the phoebe female. In most of these nests only the cowbird egg hatches, but if the phoebe egg does hatch, it will do so a few days later and the phoebe chick will usually starve. The fledgling success of cowbirds in parasitized phoebe nests is about 60-70%, about the same rate of success as phoebes in unparasitized nests (Weeks, 1994).

Average time to hatching: 16 days.

Average eggs per season: 5.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Sayornis phoebe

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.

Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.

TCTATACCTAATCTTTGGTGCCTGAGCCGGTATGATTGGTACCGCCCTAAGCCTCCTTATTCGAGCAGAACTTGGACAACCAGGAACCCTCCTAGGAGATGATCAAATTTACAACGTAATCGTTACTGCTCATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTTATAGTAATACCTATTATAATTGGAGGGTTCGGTAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATAATTGGTGCTCCAGACATAGCATTCCCTCGTATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTCCTACCTCCATCCTTCCTCCTTCTCTTAGCCTCATCCACAGTCGAAGCCGGAGCAGGCACCGGATGAACTGTATACCCTCCACTAGCTGGTAATCTAGCACACGCTGGAGCTTCAGTAGACCTAGCTATTTTTTCCCTTCATCTAGCAGGTGTCTCCTCAATCCTAGGAGCTATTAACTTCATTACTACTGCAATTAATATAAAACCCCCCGCCCTATCCCAATATCAGACTCCATTATTTGTTTGATCCGTCCTAATTACCGCAGTTCTCCTCCTTCTCTCCCTACCAGTCCTCGCTGCCGGTATCACCATGCTATTAACAGACCGTAACCTCAACACTACATTCTTTGACCCTGCAGGAGGTGGAGACCCAGTCCTATACCAACATCTCTTCTGATTCTTTGGCCACNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sayornis phoebe

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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