First Spring Migrating Bird

Eastern PhoebeI was exploring an area of Dueling Creek I hadn’t explored before – tough to get to, very rough and muddy and brambly – and also keeping an eye out for birds. Although it started out cold, the sun was warming things up and I soon became too hot for my coat. I stopped to take it off, and several birds caught my eye by a little tributary of the creek. There were 5 Song Sparrows pecking about in the leaf litter, but there was also a small gray bird perched on a branch. Through my binoculars I could see clearly it was an Eastern Phoebe, and then I had the pleasure of watching it “hawking” insects for a good while. Hawking is a feeding behavior where the bird (mostly in the flycatcher family) sits still on an exposed perch, periodically zipping off to grab a flying insect it spotted. Then the bird returns to the same, or a nearby perch, and waits to spot the next insect.


Eastern Phoebes depend on flying insects, and so the majority of them migrate south for the winter. However, unlike many other insect-eating birds, there are always a small number that winter in Maryland and seem to do fine. Apparently they will eat fruit when the insects die off, unlike many other flycatchers who will not. So was this bird I saw one that spent the winter here? or is it the first migrating songbird I’ve seen in the park this spring? Impossible to know, but it is a cheery sight nonetheless.


By the way, that’s not my photo. I tried to take a picture but the lighting was poor and the bird was very busy. I grabbed the photo from wikipedia


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