Eastern phoebe baby

The eastern phoebe is a type of flycatcher that Mark and I have had the pleasure of seeing at our cabin in northern Michigan. Doorframes and other human-made structures are preferred spots for eastern phoebes, and our front door frame seems to meet their needs. The photo below shows an eastern phoebe nest up close, which is made of moss, mud, leaves and animal hair. It can apparently take 4-15 days to build a phoebe nest, which the female does on her own while the male lingers nearby, likely offering opinions. To be fair, The Cornell Lab All About Birds site said that male and female phoebes don’t spend a lot of time together and the female may actually chase the male away.

Most nests have 2-6 eggs and they will have 1-2 broods. Unlike most birds, they will also re-use nests…and build new ones on top of old ones. They have been known to repurpose robin’s nests and barn swallow nests.

The male eastern phoebe, below, perches on a birch tree near the nest as if checking on his offspring. He uses our apple tree down by the river to hunt for insects, launching out over aquatic weeds to grab an insect on the fly, and swooping back into the apple tree, then back to the birch tree. He’s not always successful. And I’ve never seen him actually feed his offspring.

The mom phoebe is below.

The nesting period lasts only 16-20 days, but in past summers when eastern phoebes have nested over our door, they stayed on our property for the rest of the summer, flitting here and there in search of insects. Come September or so, they migrate south.

As far as our door goes? We actually come and go at our cabin on a side door that is closer to where we park our car…making the front door for the eastern phoebes. (I’ll get around to cleaning around the frame at some point, though painting above the door is not in the cards anytime soon).

In the meantime, we’re hoping a robin makes a nest on the other side of the cabin on the power box. They seem to be a bit tidier than the eastern phoebes.

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