Eastern Phoebe - juvenile, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA.
August 6th, 2013.
Quite a few responses came from my request for feedback on this odd-looking flycatcher seen and photographed at Barton Cove a couple of days ago. As is often the case, it turned out to be something perfectly common and appropriate to the area. Given the confidence of the respondents, I'm a bit surprised that this bird threw me as much as it did in the field even after I considered my naked eye views of a flycatcher with a downward flicking tail (immediately suggesting Eastern Phoebe). Juvenile Eastern Wood-Pewee was also suggested but Sibley states clearly (In the Sibley Guide to Birds) "Wood-Pewees do not flick their tails when perched" effectively ruling out that possibility. All the likely candidates from the empidonax group could be ruled out by the entirely dark bill (most empids have a pale lower mandible) and the lack of a prominent eye-ring. But even so, compared to illustrations in the popular field guides, this bird looked especially washed out seemingly lacking the yellowish lower belly, the dark smudges across the breast and the dark 'cap' and upperside to the tail of juvenile Eastern Phoebe. Each of the respondents commented that young Eastern Phoebes often look like this just after fledging which reminded me of the sometimes underrated difficulties of identifying recently fledged passerines.
Here's two more examples of recently fledged passerines from Western Massachusetts. By all means have a go at identifying these as well!;
A) unidentified fledgling - Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA.
B) unidentified fledgling - Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA.
Thanks very much to everyone who responded with comments on the identification of this juvenile Eastern Phoebe.