Bird Watcher's Digest: Home Bird Watcher's Digest Magazine Watching Backyard Birds Newsletter The Bird Watcher's Digest App Bird Watcher's Digest Nature Shop

Bird Identification

Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe, Length: 7"

Look For

The drab-looking Eastern Phoebe is considered by many birders to be a sign of spring's arrival. Calling out its name and flicking its tail up and down, this medium-sized flycatcher returns in spring as soon as insects are active. Phoebes are dark headed and pale bellied. Juvenile birds can show yellow bellies.

Listen for

Eastern Phoebes call out FEE-bee! or FEE-bree! They also utter a soft, sweet-sounding chip note.


Phoebes can be confused with the smaller Eastern Wood-Pewee, but phoebes wag their tails and pewees do not. Pewees always show obvious white wing bars. You have to look really hard to see the phoebe's wing bars.

Find it

Eastern Phoebes prefer wooded habitat near water. They build mud nests under overhanging rocks, under bridges, and in barns and can be reliably found in these settings during warm months.


The first North American ornithologist to band birds, John James Audubon tied a small silver thread around the legs of nestling Eastern Phoebes.

This profile is an excerpt from The Young Birder's Guide by Bill Thompson, III. Purchase an autographed copy from our nature store, and check out other BWD titles designed to help you identify backyard birds.

You Might Like

The Backyard Bird Watcher's Answer Guide

This booklet answers 101 of the most-often-asked questions about birds. Bird Watcher's Digest editor Bill Thompson, III has compiled material from the magazine's decades of answering questions, offering tips and solving problems for backyard bird watchers. Only $4.99 in our store!

An Identification Guide to Common Backyard Birds

This booklet is designed to introduce you to-and help you identify-many of the most common feeder birds in North America. For each species you will find a color photograph, notes about how to identify the species, a summary of its range and the times of year it is present, and general information about the food and the type of feeder it prefers. Only $4.99 in our store!

Thistle Sock Bird Feeder

Sock it to the birds! This Thistle Sock feeder attracts a variety of thistle-loving birds. Its quality nylon construction allows you to enjoy its visitors all season long. Very easy to use and clean. Only $5.00 in our store!

Identifying and Feeding Birds

This readable, friendly guide is intended for bird watchers and non-bird watchers alike—for anyone who wants to enjoy nature right in his or her own backyard. The longtime editor of Bird Watcher's Digest and author of numerous books on birds, Bill Thompson, III, has been feeding and watching birds for 40 years. He has tried everything, and he shares what he's learned so that readers can avoid the mistakes and skip right to successful bird feeding. Only $14.95 in our store!

Reduce Window Strikes With Featherguard

It has been estimated that as many as 975 million birds are killed each year in North America in collisions with glass windows and buildings. FeatherGuard is uniquely effective because it combines bright color, motion, and the birds' natural aversion to loose feathers. In nature loose feathers are often a sign that a bird has been killed by a predator. Try FeatherGuard today and make your windows safer for your wild birds. Only $9.99 in our store!