Sunday, June 28, 2015

Those Little Flycatchers: Say's Phoebes

Friday June 26 2015

It's a productive year in Owyhee for Say's Phoebes. A pair nested on top of the porch light on the front porch, right by the front door - the busy front door with constant traffic from people, cats and dogs. The birds like protective ceilings for their nest more than they dislike close proximity to people.

The Phoebe babies were spilling out of their nest April 25, and not even the people-busy Tough Sucker endurance ride, nor the evening Teeterville Jam (2 banjos, 2 guitars, 1 fiddle) on the front porch interfered with all 4 babies fledging soon afterwards.

It was such a good year in Owyhee, the Phoebes double-brooded.

June 15, four new ones were piled in the same nest, fuzzy and hot in the heat.

Thursday, June 25, spilling out of their nest, at least 2 of them fledged.  I happened to see the first one fly out of the nest into the nearest tree.

I then saw a second one fledge, onto a deer antler hanging off the lattice of the front porch. Maw and Paw Phoebe hung out with him, kept an eye on him.

I sat still and quiet for an hour, watching, taking pictures. My arms and legs cramped, my hands went to sleep, but it paid off waiting and watching, when Maw or Paw brought him a bug! That's the top photo.

The remaining two babies weren't quite ready to leave the nest, and they kept hoping for one more bug to eat.

This rather drab-colored flycatcher has a distinctive and plaintive "Peeer" call. They eat insects by nabbing them in flight, or by hovering over them and snatching them off the ground. They may winter in the Southwest and as far south as central Mexico, and they migrate north in early spring, nesting as far north as northern Alaska.

The size difference between the parents and offspring isn't that great… except for the Big Mouths on the babies!

Don't they look dejected that no food is forthcoming?

I'm a Raven and Bird of Prey fanatic, but these Say's Phoebes are intriguing, and what a treat, getting to see these little birds from the second brood fledge!


  1. Wow! What great journalism. Can't believe you were able to catch the whole cycle.

  2. I have, shall I say, a plethora of barn swallows. It started off with one nesting pair in my barn some ten years ago, and each year the number of nests increases. Pretty sure the babies are coming back home to have their own families here.

    I love watching the little ones popping their heads out of the nests when mom and pop come back with bugs. Then, the exciting days when they learn to fly.

    Years ago, at another barn, there was just one nest. One day, a big flock of adult swallows showed up and started flying around and around making a huge racket. I am totally convinced they were there to encourage the fledglings to test their wings for the first time. It was like a huge event. Sure enough, before the day was done, the little ones were out on their wings, welcome additions to the flock. I always wondered if the flock traveled from nest to nest doing the same dance.

  3. Very nice Merri as always.
    Dan & Carla

  4. Great story and pictures! So interesting that you got to see them leave the nest for the first time. And yes, the two in the bottom photo look a little cheesed off.

  5. Aw, they are so cute. I love it when birds nest near the house so I can watch them grow up. It's really special to see them fledge!