Date: 6/2/18 8:08 pm
From: James Billstine <billstinj...>
Subject: [obol] Eastern Or Say's Phoebe
Yesterday I reported what I thought was an Eastern Phoebe in Tillamook.
Upon further discussion and review it has been brought to my attention that
there are some inconclusive field marks that leave me wondering.

I think what stands out the most is how gray or brown most of the wings,
back, nape, face and head of the bird I observed. The photos of Eastern
Phoebes on Cornell's Macaulay Library show birds that are much darker:
charcoal gray to blackish.

Next, if we look at the flanks, other photos of Eastern Phoebe show some
light yellow washing. The bird I was photographing and taking video of was
front-lit, which may have lessened the appearance of the bird's flanks to a
yellow in the field (instead of the cinnamon of a Say's) which you can see
hints of in the lower part of the belly and the undertail coverts.

Moving forward from there, the Macaulay birds have generally white breasts,
chins, and throats. Some do show a yellowish wash-but that is shown in the
pictures I have studied next to definite white on the sides of the breast
and throat. The bird I observed shows a faint yellow and almost orangish
color throughout the breast, chin, and throat, without any contrasting
white. And again, the front-lighting of the bird I observed may make it
look lighter than it actually was.

The photos also show a lot of static/noise based on the camera I use which
may have also distorted the color.

Finally, I was having major allergic reactions with my eyes watering
profusely and swelling when I first observed the bird. I was focusing on
taking photos for documentation. Even with clear eyes I don't know if I
would have been able to pick out these details, but my binoculars and scope
provide much better optics than my camera.

In summary: Initially I thought it was a Say's Phoebe. Lack of orange and
yellow and a possibly white wash in throat and chin made me think Eastern
Phoebe. After studying photos and comparing to pictures in Macaulay Library
and some discussion with others I am leaning back towards Say's.

If you are interested in a truly close study I recommend opening the first
youtube video link, and then hitting the gear cog symbol in the lower right
hand corner of the frame to turn the resolution to 1080P, and then the
speed to .25. It allows you to see a lot of details while the bird is

I would like to hear what others with more experience in both species have
to say. It can be embarrassing to admit one is wrong, especially with a
mis-ID of a rare bird, but this wasn't wishful thinking on my part (I have
talked myself out of plenty of rare birds) and I accept this as a tough
bird and a learning experience. And I would never, ever, in any case fault
the judgment of my birding peers and mentors who have taught me so much and
selflessly given up so much of their time and energy to guide me and grow
my passion for the pastime. Without them I would truly be lost in a sea of

Ebird report with similarly washed out Say's Phoebe showing evenly diffused

Macaulay Photos of an Eastern Phoebe:

My Report:

Join us on Facebook!