Thursday, October 20, 2016

Birds of the Quarry, 1 - The Phoebe

A pair of phoebes has nested at precisely the same crevice in the Halibut Point quarry wall these past few seasons. My own perch on a nearby ledge faces the proceedings.


Although the male and the female look alike I understand it is she who sets up the household.

She may simply be refurbishing last year's nest beneath the overhang on the quarry wall, a bit above the water surface. Or starting anew. The details are out of sight.

After the eggs have hatched both she and her partner begin feeding the chicks.

Their slightly hooked bills help them grab insects on the wing.

Like many members of the flycatcher family phoebes can extend bristly hair-like feathers around their gaping mouth to improve their hunting success. The bristles are partially visible in the photograph above.

Phoebes often build their nests on sheltered vertical surfaces such as bridges and cliffs. They try to be coy about their comings and goings. But once you have located their homestead you're likely to have good sight lines for observation.

During the nesting season their domestic center turns a corner of the quarry into a birdwatching arena. Their behavior separates them from other 'little grey things.'

They occasionally showed their aerial agility by picking prey from the water surface.


You would think those exertions must nearly equal the caloric value of the catch.

As time goes on the parents become more insistent that the chicks launch themselves out over the water. Tucked up under the overhang the chicks have not yet glimpsed the world nor tested their wings.

In a small brave explosion the fledging gains a toehold on the cliff before flying to the safety of the woods.

The phoebe family has fulfilled its rendez-vous in our favored spot on the vast continent of America.

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