The eastern phoebe was the first bird ever to be banded in North America. John James Audubon, renowned wildlife artist and conservationist, tied a thread to the leg of a phoebe to track its movements over migratory seasons. It is perhaps appropriate, then, that the eastern phoebe is serving as a red flag for climate change.
As one of the first migratory birds to return to our area each spring, the eastern phoebe is a common sight at this time of year. However, the first eastern phoebe banded at Powdermill Nature Reserve in 2012 set a new record for the earliest phoebe ever banded.
The early arrival of one individual bird may not seem like much, but, taken with other Powdermill data, is consistent with a trend of earlier migrations as a result of rising global temperatures. The continued bird migration research of our museum scientists is critical to our understanding of the impact of global warming and other conservation issues on local and global ecology.