Natural nest sites of the Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe Nest


The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) is a common inhabitant of Southern Ontario. The 2nd edition of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas shows that peak abundance in the province aligns with the southern edge of the Canadian Shield. In these areas, the high forest coverage and availability of nest sites (e.g. cottages, bridges and other man-made structures) likely contribute to higher densities (Cadman 2007). It has been suggested that the species underwent a marked range expansion and population increase in unison with early development and human settlement, which greatly increased the availability of suitable nest sites (Weeks, H.P., Jr. 1994). Phoebes attach their nests directly to a vertically sloped surface, which provides overhead protection from the elements, in much the same manner as Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica). Man-made structures such as bridges, culverts and eaves of buildings are just a few of many ‘unnatural’ features suitable for the species. What does this suggest for precolonial status of the Eastern Phoebe in Ontario? The nest pictured above was found last week and its location illustrates this question.


Nest site


The Eastern Phoebe has been a resident of Ontario’s woodlands since long before axe-wielding Europeans arrived. This particular nest was attached directly to a vertical rock wall below a cut in the rock. These rock formations occur throughout the FBS study area – in forest interiors, dry rock barrens and edges of lakes and ponds. It is plausible that the high numbers detected along the southern edge of the shield are also attributable to the proliferation of these naturally occurring nest sites. Click here for more info on nesting Eastern Phoebes in the Frontenac Arch.


4 thoughts on “Natural nest sites of the Eastern Phoebe

  1. Wow. You must have seen an adult fly in, I’m guessing. But then again, you are an experienced observer.

    The nest is so beautiful. Thanks for the pics.

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