Phoebe on Fence

Black Phoebe

This Black Phoebe sat on the Berkeley Meadow fence along Marina Boulevard and allowed me to catch a few seconds of video.  It was an alert little bird, looking around this way and that, before deciding that staying in one spot too long was tempting fate, and off it flew.  Like the Barn Swallows, the Phoebe is an insect catcher, but it prefers to perch in one spot and wait for a meal to come near, instead of flying nonstop like the swallows.

These birds make mud nests against walls.  There’s no walls in the Berkeley Meadow high enough for a nesting site, and none in Cesar Chavez Park.  They must build their nests somewhere on the Hilton Hotel across the street.

The Cornell bird lab website gives these “Cool Facts” about Black Phoebes:

  • Although it mostly eats insects, the Black Phoebe sometimes snatches minnows from the surface of ponds. It may even feed fish to nestlings.
  • The male Black Phoebe gives the female a tour of potential nest sites, hovering in front of each likely spot for 5 to 10 seconds. But it’s the female who makes the final decision and does all the nest construction.
  • Black Phoebes don’t usually venture outside their breeding and wintering areas, but on rare occasions they are seen as far east as Florida. One misplaced bird showed up in Minnesota in the fall.
  • One pair of Black Phoebes got some unwanted house guests when a pair of House Finches moved into their nest. The finches added 5 eggs to the 6 phoebe eggs already there, and the two females alternated incubation duties for an entire week before both species abandoned the nest.
  • The oldest Black Phoebe on record was at least 8 years old when it was recaptured and released during banding operations in California.

Here’s another snapshot of this (or a) Black Phoebe at the same spot a couple of days later:

Black Phoebe on blackberry patch


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