Eastern Phoebes have become so well known for four building nests on the eaves of houses, on porches, in barns, on bridges and on many other man-made structures it may be a bit hard to imagine where they built their nests before European settlement of North America. Recently, Warren King, Carol Ramsayer and myself had the opportunity to see first hand the type of place they might have used back then while walking a property in Salisbury.

As we walked we heard a Phoebe calling and as we got closer, I spotted one hop up on a branch with nesting material in its bill. Then I watched it as it carried that material up to a sheltered spot in an outcropping of rock ledge and applied it to the beginnings of a nest. As the female did this work, her mate stood sentinel above in tree keeping an eye out for danger. When we watched this happening five days ago the nest was nothing but mud daubed on rock, but when I returned to look at it again today, it was a complete cup covered with a camouflaging layer of moss that makes much more sense on a rock ledge than it might on the side of a house.

– Ron Payne