A visual journal exploring the birds of Inwood and Northern Manhattan

by Teri Tynes – writer, photographer, and illustrator

An Eastern Phoebe Explores the White Pines

An Eastern Phoebe has been frequenting the White Pines area of Inwood Hill Park for the past couple of days. This particular gathering of Eastern White Pine trees, located in an elevated part of the forest and marked by a park sign, as well as the adjacent forest clearing must be harboring plenty of insects for this active flycatcher. The remote area would also provide the peace and quiet these birds tend to prefer.

Eastern Phoebe. April 10, 2023. Inwood Hill Park.

I think the Eastern Phoebe possesses an understated beauty. Maybe “pretty” and “winsome” are more descriptive, though these are subjective terms. Identified by its dullish brown/grey color and a light breast, the Eastern Phoebe holds itself upright with excellent posture. It wags its tail in a charming way. The phoebe looks like it would be a shy bird, but I’ve come to learn that they are well accustomed to humans as they sometimes select eaves under roof tops for their nests. 

An early spring migrant, the Eastern Phoebe breeds in eastern Northern America and makes its nest of mud and grass under overhangs, ledges, and eaves. It winters in southeastern U.S. and eastern Mexico, so it tends to arrive early and stay longer through the breeding season. Compared to many other migrants who come from deeper south in the Americas, the distance they travel is not all that far. 

The Eastern Phoebe is a solitary creature, like this one in the forest. It also frequents areas near water, so look there, too.

Listen for a quiet chip sound or a raspy song that sounds like “fee-bee.” Yes, that would be their name.   

Eastern Phoebe in the White Pines. April 9, 2023

From the sketchbook

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