Eastern Phoebe

6 Birds that look like Eastern Phoebe (A Complete Guide!)

It is very common for people to mistaken other birds for the Eastern Phoebe. This article will provide you with a list of different types of birds that resemble the Eastern Phoebe, as well as what makes them similar and how they differ from the phoebe.

The eastern phoebe is an extremely common bird in North America, which means it’s no surprise that many other species get confused with it.

Birds that look like Eastern Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

Say's Phoebe
Image by jimsimons from Pixabay

Say’s Phoebe and Eastern Phoebe are two types of flycatchers that can be confused for one another. Say’s phoebe are bigger with a gray throat and cinnamon colored belly in comparison to the Eastern phoebe which has a white throat and belly. Say’s phoebe have broader wings, longer tails, and lighter coloration than the Eastern phoebe, which are smaller, darker birds with shorter tails.

Say’s Phoebe and Eastern Phoebe look similar, but they have different breeding ranges. Say’s Phoebe live in the western United States and Mexico, while Eastern Phoebes live east of the Rocky Mountains. Eastern Phoebes are migratory birds that breed in the eastern United States from North Carolina to Connecticut and into southern Canada.

Black Phoebe

The Black Phoebe and Eastern Phoebe are similar looking birds, but there are some distinguishing features. The Eastern phoebe measures 11.5 cm (4.5 in) and have a lighter gray head with white breast while the black phoebe is slightly bigger measuring 16 cm (6.3 in) has a dark gray almost black head and breast. The difference in size is not enough to tell them apart, but there is one way to tell which bird you’re looking at, simply look at their tail.

They also have different habitats, with the Eastern Phoebe being found primarily near water and along rivers while the Black Phoebe prefer drier areas such as fields or grasslands. Both types of birds feed on insects, especially flies, gnats, ants, mosquitoes and beetles

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash

Dark-eyed Juncos and Eastern Phoebes are two birds that you might confuse with one another because they both have dark eyes. Dark-eyed Juncos look like the eastern phoebe, but they are gray on top and white underneath while Eastern Phoebes are grayish brown on top with a dark head. One way to tell them apart is by looking at their bills: Dark-eyed Junpos have a thick bill for cracking seeds whereas Eastern Phoebes have a​​​​​​​ thin bill for insects.

Dark-eyed Juncos can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is usually found in woodland and forest areas with plenty of shrubs, bushes, and trees. The Eastern Phoebe lives mostly on coasts or other wetlands such as lakes, or ponds and does not have as much green space for vegetation, so it has more open habitats. 

Related: Fun Facts About Dark-eyed Juncos

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatchers are small, grayish birds that live in the Eastern United States. They look like Eastern Phoebe’s, but they are slightly bigger than them. They also have some similarities in their habitats: both live near water sources such as lakes or streams, but willow flycatchers can be found around all types of freshwater habitats including bogs and swamps.

One way to tell the difference is by looking at their heads. Willow Flycatchers have a light colored head, while Eastern Phoebes have dark heads. Another way to distinguish between the two is by looking at their wings: willow flycatchers’ wings are longer than their bodies, while Eastern Phoebe’s wings are shorter than their body length.​​​​​​​ 

Ash-throated Flycatcher​​​​​​​

Ash-throated Flycatcher​​​​​​​
Photo by Wallace Bentt on Unsplash

The Ash-throated Flycatcher is a type of bird that looks like the Eastern Phoebe. They are found in Central America and parts of North America throughout woodlands, or scrublands, where they live in trees near water sources. The Ash-throated Flycatcher eats small insects and other animals, as well as plant material such as fruit. 

These birds are not only much bigger than eastern phoebes, but they also have a peaked crest and are primarily grayish brown overall, with a light yellow belly and reddish-brown edges. The eastern phoebe has no peaked crest, is smaller, measuring only 11.5 cm (4.5 in) in length and has a lighter gray plumage.

American Bushtit

The American Bushtit and Eastern Phoebe are both similar in size, coloration, and behavior. They can be difficult to tell apart because they have the same general shape with a stubby head, long tail, and small bill. One way to tell them apart is by looking at their throat feathers—the American Bushtit has a line of white or yellow-orange feather on its throat while the Eastern Phoebe does not. 

The American Bushtit and Eastern Phoebe have very different habits. The American Bushtit is a small bird that lives in shrubs or trees near open areas like fields or meadows. It feeds on insects like grasshoppers, beetles, and bugs from the ground up to 6 feet off the ground where it can easily see them. While the Eastern Phoebe prefers to feed on insects that live in streams and rivers but will also eat flies, spiders, worms, and crickets.


  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.

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