Sayornis Phoebe – Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis Phoebe - Eastern Phoebe found in the US

The eastern phoebe is a tiny passerine bird (Sayornis phoebe). Sayornis is derived from a portion of Charles Lucien Bonaparte’s name for Say’s phoebe, Muscicapa saya, and the Ancient Greek ornis, “bird.” Phoebe is a nickname for the Roman moon goddess Diana; nevertheless, it may have been chosen to mimic the bird’s call.

Quick Overview: Sayornis Phoebe – Eastern Phoebe
Body size: Around 7 in (18 cm) and a weight of 20 g (0.7 oz)
Main colors: Gray-Brown, Yellow, Black
Range: Southeastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Eastern phoebe Description

The upper parts of this little flycatcher are dark gray-brown, with slightly darker wings and tail. The underparts are white, with a tinge of olive-brown or yellow on the sides and breast. The bill, legs, and feet are all black.

Sayornis Phoebe - Eastern Phoebe found in the US
Sayornis Phoebe – Eastern Phoebe. Photo by: Bill Thomson


These birds have a length of 7 in (18 cm) and a weight of 20 g (0.7 oz). Their wings could range from 11.5 in (29 cm).


The Eastern Phoebe is primarily an insectivore, devouring a variety of flying insects including wasps, ants, flies, and wild bees. Their food is supplemented by invertebrates such as grasshoppers, airborne spiders, waterborne hairworms, and even small fish found in shallow water.


The eastern phoebe breeds in open woodland, farmland, and suburbs, frequently near bodies of water. This phoebe is an insectivore and frequently perches conspicuously while searching for food. In cooler seasons, it also consumes fruits and berries.


The Eastern Phoebe is a solitary bird that rarely interacts with other phoebes. Even mated pairs spend little time together. While they may roost together early in pair formation, the female frequently chases the male away during egg-laying.

Sayornis Phoebe Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Tyrannidae
  • Genus: Sayornis
  • Species: Sayornis phoebe

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Eastern phoebe in the USA

The Eastern Phoebe breeds from northern Canada to the southeastern United States. It spends the winter largely in the southeastern United States, with particularly dense populations in Texas and Florida. Winter ranges extend further into Mexico. It has been observed only twice outside of North America, both times in 1987 in the United Kingdom.

The Eastern phoebe can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Sayornis Phoebe – Eastern Phoebe

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