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Friday, July 07, 2006

Eastern Phoebe: Security System

Nesting Eastern Phoebe with metal baffle around nest
Mrs. Phoebe incubating
Phoebe catching insects

We are very fond of our Eastern Phoebes. Three years ago, when they nested in our barn, their eggs were eaten by a Red Squirrel who climbed into the rafters. We were very upset. The female left and we sadly watched, as Mr. Phoebe spent the rest of the summer, alone, calling for a mate. He was not successful.

We were determined, when they returned the following year, that we were going to outwit the Red Squirrel (yes, we know, often a futile exercise). How could we protect the nest so the Red Squirrel and other predators could not get the eggs? We came up with the idea of making a baffle out of sheet metal. While the Phoebes were building the nest, we put a piece of metal up each day, so that we gradually got them used to the idea of the metal baffle surrounding their nest. We were ecstatic, when the baffle worked, and they successfully raised two broods last year.

This year when they returned, we talked to them and strongly suggested they build their nest on top of last year's nest. Otherwise, we would have to move the whole baffle set-up. Smart Phoebes that they are, that's exactly what they did.

They're on their second brood now and Mrs. Phoebe is incubating eggs. She's quite tolerant of us walking past the barn opening and working in the garden outside the barn, but leaves the nest when we walk under it. So we try to disturb her as little as possible. We look forward to the babies hatching and having the Phoebes hunt in the garden for insects, as we sit in the gazebo and watch.

All photos © Lillian Stokes, 2006

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