Our New Neighbors–the Phoebes


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     Some new neighbors moved in a few weeks ago.  And they are very friendly neighbors.  In fact, their motto seems to be “su casa es mi casa.”  These neighbors are showing a surprising degree of interest in our house!

     You guessed it.  Our new neighbors are birds.  Phoebes.  I so often see them flitting about near our windows, swooping up under the eaves of the house, and emerging from our three-sided tool shed.

    Phoebes, apparently, are known for living in close proximity to humans.  Unlike shyer birds, phoebes build their nests on the ledges of buildings, under steps, and under the eaves of houses.  Phoebes are not at all distressed by human activity nearby.  In fact, I read of one phoebe pair that built their nest on the underside of a railroad bridge.  There they raised their young, unconcerned about the trains that roared over them every day!    Ornithologists say that the phoebe is one bird whose numbers have  increased, rather than decreased, along with rising human numbers and humans’ geographical expansion.  More people mean more buildings.  And more buildings, it seems, mean more potential nest sites.

     Phoebes are not colorful birds.  They have a dark head and a dark back and tail feathers.  The breast is white, with smudgy grey on the upper part.  The cutest thing about the phoebe, I think, is its tail, which seems made to move.  When a phoebe arrives at its perch, the tail gets activated– flipping, dipping, and quivering.  The ph0ebe is easy to recognize by its raspy-sounding call.  It says its name.  

     Phoebes are flycatchers, a large family of birds that eat insects by darting out from a perch and catching them in mid-air.  During the winter, phoebes may supplement their diet with berries.  

     While I have mostly enjoyed observing the habits of our new neighbors, I have to admit they have also been annoying.   One of the phoebes began to hang out around a couple of the windows of our house, just below a small balcony.  The bird would hover, then scrabble its feet against one of the windows.  After a few moments, the bird would then move to the adjacent screen, and press against it,  clutching the screen with its feet and facing in, tail feathers spread wide, for balance, I assume.  Then the routine would resume:  hover; scrabble; cling.  

     Well, it didn’t take long for the windows and screens to become streaked and dotted with globs of white.  I wasn’t happy to have to wash the windows and scrub the screens.  But once I covered the outside of the windows and screens with newspaper, the phoebe left them alone.

     I assumed the bird had been interested in building a nest in the balcony eaves, and that it interpreted its reflection in the window below as a rival that must be driven away.  While I would love to have a nest of baby birds so close by, I wasn’t willing to put up with filthy windows.  The birds would just have to find another spot for their nest.  

     And it seems they have.  Even as I sit here writing, I have been hearing bird feet scrabbling against a sliding glass door and on our basement windows.  Uh-oh.  I am not looking forward to washing these larger windows and taping newspapers onto them.  But I am also hoping the phoebes will build their cup-shaped nest in a near enough place that I’ll be able to observe the little ones.–April Moore

     

 

 

One Response to “Our New Neighbors–the Phoebes”

  1. Kia Ware Says:

    Thanks, April! I love learning about birds. In fact, I think I have a pair trying to nest in our gutters.

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