This species appears remarkably big-headed, especially if it puffs up the small crest. Its plumage is gray-brown above. It has a white throat, dirty gray breast and buffish underparts which become whiter during the breeding season. Two indistinct buff bars are present on each wing. It lacks an eye ring and wing bars, has an all dark bill , which distinguishes it from other North American tyrant flycatchers. It pumps its tail up and down like other phoebes when perching on a branch.

Habitat and Distribution

This bird breeds in eastern North America, but its normal range does not include the southeastern coastal USA. It is migratory, wintering in the southernmost USA and Central America and is a rare vagrant to western Europe. It is one of the first birds to return to the breeding grounds in spring and one of the last to leave in the fall.Their breeding habitat is open woodland, farmland and suburbs, often near water.


This phoebe is insectivorous, and often perches conspicuously when seeking food items. It also eats fruits and berries in cooler weather.


Eastern Phoebes breed in mid-late March. It often nests on human structures such as bridges and buildings. The nest is an open cup with a mud base and lined with moss and grass, built in crevice in a rock or man-made site; 2 to 6 eggs are laid. Both parents feed the young and usually raise two broods per year.

Calls and Songs

The Eastern Phoebe's call is a sharp chip, and the song, from which it gets its name, is fee-bee.