Phoebes are small birds of the flycatcher family. They feed on insects of all sorts, perching on a branch until they spot a meal to chase down. They are also known to be very devoted parents, with both the male and the female sharing in the responsibilities. Both will catch food for the young and the male will also bring the female food while she sits on the nest.
These two phoebes have found a sheltered spot on a beam under an overhanging deck of a log cabin on a remote lake in Parry Sound, Ontario. They typically seek sheltered areas such as this to build their nest. In this video, our parents have five very hungry babies who sleep until they hear the wingbeats of their parents returning to the nest. They open their mouths hungrily and chirp their demands for food. The parents fly back and forth repeatedly, bringing a meal every few minutes.
Surprisingly, the babies are fed enormous dragonflies that seem much larger than they should be able to swallow. Their beak opens and the parent pops the large insect in, occasionally stuffing the meal deep into the baby's mouth. It seems to be a struggle to get the whole thing in and the babies work at swallowing them for several seconds before they actually disappear. Considering the size of the bugs, and the frequency with which each one gets fed, these babies eat a tremendous amount of food. The parents have a full time job, working almost all day to meet their needs.
Another surprising thing is what happens when the food is digested. The babies start to wiggle until their bums are hanging over the edge of the nest. The parent sees immediately what is happening and gets in position as the feces appears. The mother or father quickly grabs these packages in their beak to fly off with it. Instinctively, they know to keep the nest clean by removing the waste right away.
Phoebes are among the most dedicated birds and these ones are no exception. They will continue this hectic pace for several more weeks until the babies are ready to fly.