Black Phoebes Feeding Young

by Larry Jordan on July 17, 2010

Black Phoebe Feeding Young At Mary Lake photos by Larry Jordan

Back in the middle of May, when I was chronicling the Green Herons nesting in Norm’s backyard near Mary Lake, I photographed some other birds in the midst of their breeding cycles.  Black Phoebe juveniles were begging food from their parents at the upper pond.

Mom or Dad was flying around, gathering insects and bringing them to the gaping mouths of their offspring

The Black Phoebe is a member of the Tyrannidae family, commonly known as flycatchers.  They are appropriately named as they typically perch close to the ground or over water where they visually locate prey then fly out to snatch it in mid-air.

This parent is obviously an excellent flycatcher.  Notice how large the juvenile in the background is compared to the slimmer adult that has been feeding it.

Recently fledged juveniles will often weigh more than their parents since they have been fed well by the adults, who have been running (or flying) their tails off, trying to keep up with their constant cries for more food!  This is the only way a newly hatched baby bird can reach adult size in three weeks time.

Seeing its sibling being fed must have encouraged the second juvenile to come to perch as the adult flew off on another foray for flying insects.

The Black Phoebe is the only black-breasted flycatcher which, along with its tail-bobbing habit, makes it a fairly easy bird to identify, even from a distance.

I snapped this shot as the adult was getting a very brief rest from the chubby little ones.  A nice family portrait I thought.  Note the shorter flight and tail feathers of the juvenile birds and the cinnamon-buff wing bars.

I found this short video showing the Black Phoebe hunting insects in slow motion.  It doesn’t show the bird actually fly catching but gleaning a bug from a tree.  I enjoyed the last bit of the video because it shows the bird flying right at you, then pulling up to change direction.  It is a typical flycatcher move.

The Black Phoebes weren’t the only birds on the pond feeding young.  The ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbird was out in force.  A male was clinging to a cattail observing

as his mate gathered insects for the troops.

I also got excellent views of a Brewer’s Blackbird showing his iridescent colors in the afternoon sunshine.

It was a great end to a day shooting the Green Heron, which I also spotted flying over the pond before I left.

If you want to see some really nice bird photographs, check out Bird Photography Weekly!  Become a fan and show us some of your bird photos too.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill July 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm

That female Red-winged shot is awesome – love it! And the phoebe baby is so fat and so cute. Great photos, Larry! Love the fledgling season 😉


Tabib July 17, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Lovely feeding shots.
.-= Tabib´s last blog ..Myna Sunbathing =-.


Larry July 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

@Jill thank you. That female RWBL was my favorite shot too 🙂 I am looking forward to your edition of the upcoming I and the Bird!

@Tabib thank you very much


Mick July 18, 2010 at 12:06 am

Very interesting photos of the adult and juvenile Black Phoebes. The wing-bars on the juveniles are certainly a beautiful color and quite distinctive from the adults. The female Red-winged B with the insect in its beak is especially good.
.-= Mick´s last blog ..Beach Stone-Curlew =-.


Phil July 18, 2010 at 4:01 am

Cracking pictures as usual Larry. That phoebe is a little smarty pants with that sooty black plumage
.-= Phil´s last blog ..Green- Black- Red and Yellow =-.


Larry July 18, 2010 at 6:21 am

@Mick thanks. Those juvie Phoebes were sure keeping the adult busy! I love watching the families feeding and rearing behaviors. From what I read, the adult Black Phoebe will sometimes take a flying insect to the chicks and then release it to teach them how to fly catch!

@Phil thank you very much. I love your description, “little smarty pants”


Wren July 18, 2010 at 7:39 am

Another awesome set of photos, Larry. I hadn’t known about the size difference in the young – still, they are cute little puff balls, aren’t they?
.-= Wren´s last blog vulture coragyps atratus – bird photography weekly =-.


Crafty Green Poet July 18, 2010 at 8:01 am

those fledglings are so cute, it does at first seem odd that they’re often larger than the parents, but they need those reserves as you say!


NatureFootstep July 18, 2010 at 9:56 am

Don´t know what kind of bird Phoebe´s are. Why is it that juveniles always seem to be larger then their parents? Much fluffier?

Great photo as usual.
.-= NatureFootstep´s last blog ..Ladusvala – Hirundo rustica – Barn swallow =-.


Nutty Birder July 18, 2010 at 11:19 am

Nice series of shots! The Black Phoebe shots are awesome!
.-= Nutty Birder´s last blog ..Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush =-.


MaineBirder July 18, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Absolutley beautiful series Larry! Thanks for sharing the Black Phoebe photos, I’ve never seen one before.
.-= MaineBirder´s last blog ..Juvenile Bald Eagles =-.


Dawn Fine July 19, 2010 at 7:39 am

Excellent photo series! Love the Brewers and bug.
.-= Dawn Fine´s last blog ..Sargent Mountain Hike ♥ Acadia NP =-.


Larry July 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm

@Wren thank you very much. Those fledglings always seem to be cute but these are especially puffy!

@Juliet thanks for stopping by with a comment!

@NF the nestlings actually get heavier than the parents as the parents use all their energy gathering food for the nestlings who are not exercising

@Eric thanks a bunch!

@John you are very welcome. Thanks for sharing the Bald Eagle nest!

@Dawn thanks. I like that Brewer’s shot too 😉


Halcyon July 20, 2010 at 5:45 am

You really have some nice captures here.

I love looking at birds and learning about them.


vickie July 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I love those black phoebe juvenile images! What awesome photos. I watched my yard pair of Eastern Phoebes feed young twice and never got a glimpse of the fledglings! So I was delighted to see yours.
.-= vickie´s last blog ..Killdeer Chick-A Ball of Fluff on Stilts =-.


Dawn Fine July 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I came back to check out the video..My internet was slow the first time I saw this post.
How very cool! more more..
.-= Dawn Fine´s last blog ..♥ South Bubble to Jordon Pond house loop♥ =-.


Lana July 21, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Great shots, as usual. Thanks for sharing. Love the phoebes!
.-= Lana´s last blog ..Baby Raccons &amp An Unusual Visitor =-.


Joan July 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Great series of shots!
We have Eastern Phoebes that nest under the eaves each year and I see the adults coming back to the nest with insects. They’re fairly shy. Maybe, someday, I’ll be around the fledglings are leaving the nest to see this phase of the operations.
.-= Joan´s last blog ..Roundleaf Greenbrier Smilax rotundifolia =-.


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