Carnegie Museum of Natural History

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Carnegie Museum of Natural History
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March 1, 2012


Harbinger of Spring: Earliest Recorded Spring Capture of Eastern Phoebe

Rector, Pennsylvania…Phil may have decided that we had six more weeks of winter, but Phoebe thinks differently.

Today, March 1, an eastern phoebe—an early spring migratory bird—was captured, measured, photographed, and released at the bird banding laboratory at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the environmental research center of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Prior to today, the earliest recorded capture of this species in Powdermill’s 51-year history of bird banding was March 10, 1975. Typically, eastern phoebe migrations are expected in mid- to late March.

Avian ecologist and head of the bird banding program Andrew Vitz, PhD, explains the significance: “The arrival of one individual bird doesn't mean all that much. However, when considered with other migration data we’ve collected at Powdermill, there is a well-established trend over the last few decades of birds arriving earlier each spring. Last year we had new earliest records for quite a few species, and I expect something similar this spring. Earlier migration is consistent with other evidence of a changing climate."

The Powdermill bird migration research program is home to the one of the longest continually running bird banding stations in the United States. Powdermill Nature Reserve is located 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Click for photo: An eastern phoebe captured at Powdermill Nature Reserve
Photo credit
: Carnegie Museum of Natural History


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,