Phoebes at home

[This is the first of probably three posts on a family of phoebes who have moved into our household.]

The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) is a flycatcher, in the family Tyrannidae


Every year she builds an exquisite nest above our front door.

Phoebe nest

The base is mud, from the small pond by our driveway, which she uses to build a foundation on the top of the light above the door. Then she adds moss, then some sort of soft grass as a lining . Each year she uses the previous year’s nest as a base, and adds to it, building a multi-year skyscraper. Then it topples off, and she starts again. Obviously, the builders are from many generations of mother birds, but somehow the family tradition is kept alive. through the 38 years we have lived here, and who knows how long before that (the house is 210 years old). .

This year, as of May 23,  she has 5 eggs.

Phibere eggs, May 23

Every time we come in and out of the door she flies off, but she always comes back..

On June 5, instead of being snuggled inside the nest she was sitting on the edge:


I hoped that meant the eggs had hatched. We got out the ladder and peeked, and sure enough, tiny chicks.


From when I first saw the eggs, this is 13 days, and incubation is given as 16 days in the books. From now, it is supposedly another 16 days till they fledge, so I will watch them carefully and report back. I will check once a week only, so as not to disturb them, though they seem unbothered by our presence, and the mother returned to feed them a few minutes after we put the ladder away.

Watch this space.

PS: I am not sure why this unassuming bird is called Phoebe. Phoebe is the Latinized form of the Greek name Φοίβη (Phoibe), which meant “bright, pure”.  In Greek mythology Phoibe was a Titan associated with the moon and it was also one of the names of her granddaughter, the moon goddess Artemis.

PPS My friend Sue has rightly reminded me that it is of course named after its call: 

4 thoughts on “Phoebes at home”

  1. I just love waking up to this. Your research into the name Phoebe is impeccable! My daughter’s name is Phoebe, so this means I must be a Titan? Moira, the hatchlings are so beautiful. My younger brother installed a camera into an area of their house so they could unobstrusively spy on the nest activity of a favorite bird and he was also able to capture photos to share. We had so much fun with this. But it seems your Phoebes are just comfortable enough with you that it’s not necessary.


  2. Similar to your experience, every year a pair has built a nest over our garage doors, using a very narrow edge of the frame as an anchor. Unfortunately, we always arrive after the young have fledged.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: