110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Eastern phoebes mainly eat insects and arachnids
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jun 2, 2014 - 9:54:50am
The anti-social Eastern phoebe calls his own name, “phee-bee, phee-bee,” in a raspy, impatient way. This little loner is gray-brown on top and buff below, with a dark head and tail.
The Eastern phoebe is a 7-inch flycatcher, has a 10-inch wingspan, and weighs only .6 of an ounce. Its distinctive trait is a pumping tail.
These birds breed in central Canada and the eastern U.S., and then winter in the southeastern U.S., Mexico and Central America in dry prairies, forests, and urban and agricultural environments near water. They live in Florida from September through March.
Phoebes sit on low perches and look for flying insects. They quickly leave and chase their prey when it’s sighted; then they return to the perch to wait for the next tiny meal. Insects and arachnids, including wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths, spiders and ticks, are 90 percent of their diet, but they occasionally eat fruit and seeds.
Their nesting instincts are unique. The female alone uses mud and grass in a protected nook on a bridge, barn or house to build a nest, which takes her five or six days to accomplish. The male is chased away by the female after a short time. She lays two to six eggs and, alone, she incubates them for two weeks. However, the male does defend his territory.
Once the eggs hatch, both parents feed the chicks for three weeks. They raise two to three broods per year. Unlike many other birds, they reuse their nests or renovate robins’ or barn swallows’ nests.
Eastern phoebes’ main predators are snakes, jays, crows, chipmunks and mice. They can live up to 10 years if they aren’t a meal for an enemy!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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