Feeding and Cleaning

It’s Phoebe Week, day Four!

Phoebe on wire


It takes a lot of food to power the astoundingly fast growth of hatchlings. We see the Eastern Phoebe parents flying to the nest and then off again countless times during the day.

at nest


The babies are now so large, that even from a distance, I can see gaping mouths waiting for food.



What goes in must come out. The birds somehow have to keep that nest clean of feces. I hadn’t thought about how that was done, but then Steve caught the method on camera.

The baby bird turns it’s butt to the parent.



Out comes the manure,

taking manure


which the parent takes hold of in his/her beak,

carrying manure


and then flies off. I know where it’s being dropped – right on my porch five feet from the nest. It’s a mess. I’ll scrub it down when the birds fledge.

Once that’s done, there’s yet another mouth to feed.

baby birds


The Phoebe parents have a demanding work schedule. But I have noticed them taking a moment for themselves.

phoebe preening


  1. teri, that’s interesting. poop disposal isn’t it amazing how all of creation manages (usually) to clean up after themselves? i have even seen worms dispose of their own little mess. then think of the waste generated by the top member of the food chain. boggles my mind.
    just a for what its worth thought

  2. Wow….very interesting. And great captures! Kudos to the IT Guy. ;)

  3. Grackles drop the poop sack over water. Which is often one of my bird baths :(

  4. Fascinating!! I never even thought about it, but that makes so much sense. Thank you for posting. I’ll have to watch our barn swallows more closely. Their babies, in multiple nests in the barn, poke their little heads over to look at me all the time.

  5. Amazing photos! I did not realize parent birds were as busy removing stuff from one end of their babies as they are valiantly filling the the noisier end. The things `some` do for their children….. :)

  6. This has been one of my favorite chronicles! Thank you so much Terri! I occasionally wondered how birds kept the nest tidy and am so impressed by their dedication to cleanliness. I have had the honor to host phoebe families on the corner of our back porch for at least 20 years now. They return year after year and are such sweet little birds. My family watches for the phoebe’s return and then we know spring has arrived for good!

    The photos are excellent…thanks to both Terri and IT Guy!

  7. You and your husband supply amazing photos and stories. I have been a fan of your web site since I found it 3 years ago when I got my first chickens. I am even more thankful for it this week since I am in hospital. This was such a great post this week about the Phoebes ( bunny and bird)

    • I’m glad that the animals can keep you company while you’re in the hospital. I hope that you have a speedy recovery!

  8. Like many, I’ve watched wild birds raise their young a zillion times. And somehow, it just never gets old.

  9. Love your blogs about all your Phoebes (birds and bunny)!

  10. I’ll ditto Tracy. Watching new life never gets old.

    I knew some baby birds would stick their butts over the edge of the nest and go (which is why I never stand under a nest :) ), but I never knew some birds took their babies’ poop away. I love Mother Nature. Always something new and awesome to learn! Thanks soooo much for the pics!

  11. Amazing. The photos are fantastic. I’m so enjoying Phoebe(s) week!

  12. Baby birds seem to instinctively try to back up and aim out of the nest to keep it clean. Bird friends and rescuers told me that if a nest is not maintained somehow or heat and moisture builds up, a nasty, biting mite infestation can occur causing a baby bird to try to get away and jump out Putting it back on the nest may not always be a good thing.