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Any of three species (family Tyrannidae, suborder Tyranni) of suboscine passerines with a habit of twitching their tail when perching. The eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) of North America is 7.5 in. (18 cm) long, plain brownish gray above, and paler below. Its call is a brisk fee-bee uttered over and over. It makes a mossy nest, strengthened with mud, on a ledge, often under a bridge. Say's phoebe (S. saya), a slightly larger bird with buff-hued underparts, occurs in open country in western North America. The black phoebe (S. nigricans), occurring from the southwestern U.S. to Argentina, is dark above with a white belly.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on phoebe, visit Britannica.com.