Say's Phoebe Likes to Nest Under Eaves

By Dave Hanks

Thirty miles south of Burns, Oregon is a wonderful refuge called Malheur. You can travel the refuge roads another thirty miles to the southern end. Here you will find the tiny village of Frenchglen. There is a very old hotel there that is now turned into a bed and breakfast where you can stay if you don’t like to “rough it.” At the southeast corner, on the bottom edge of Steins Mountain, is a campground called Page Springs. It is here that we always stay.

There is an old outhouse, which is no longer used, that has a shelf under its eaves on the west. Here you can find nests lined up in a row. They are this year’s and previous year’s nests of the Say’s Phoebe. It’s quaint - how they are all lined up.

The Phoebe is in the Flycatcher family. They have the interesting behavior of darting out to nab an insect and then returning to the same perch. Growing in the campground are some new, small trees that have mesh fences around each one. The bird likes to perch, in the open, on these fences to watch for insects. This behavior facilitates observation and also photography.

Say’s Phoebe is 7 inches long with a gray topside and a rust colored underside. It breeds farther north than any other Flycatcher – nests having been found on the Alaska pipeline. Flycatcher is an appropriate description, as they feed exclusively on insects.

Listen for a low, whistled “pit-tsee-eur” alternated with an up-slurred “chur-eur” or “phee-eur” to locate this tail wagging species.

(Sayorris saya)