Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Tyrannidae | [latin] Sayornis nigricans | [UK] Black Phoebe | [FR] Moucherolle noire | [DE] Schwarzkopf-Phoebe | [ES] Mosquero Negro | [NL] Zwarte Phoebe


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Sayornis nigricans NA, LA w USA to nw Argentina
Sayornis nigricans amnicola
Sayornis nigricans angustirostris
Sayornis nigricans aquaticus
Sayornis nigricans latirostris
Sayornis nigricans nigricans
Sayornis nigricans semiater

Physical charateristics

Our only black flycatcher; belly white. Has the typical phoebe tail-bobbing habit.

Listen to the sound of Black Phoebe

[audio: Phoebe.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

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North America, Latin America : West USA to Northwest Argentina


Shady streams, walled canyons, farmyards, towns; near water. Occurs in a variety of semi-open habitats. Rarely found away from vicinity of water, which may be na
tural streams or ponds, or irrigation ditches or even water troughs; water ensures the availability of mud for nests.


In courtship, male performs song-flight display, fluttering in the air with rapidly repeated calls, then descending slowly.
Nest: Mud nests are usually plastered to sheltered spot such as cliff face, bridge support, culvert, or under eaves of building. Occasionally in well a few feet below ground level
. Often returns to same nesting site year after year. Nest (probably built by female) is an open cup, semi-circular if attached to vertical wall, circular if placed on flat beam. Nest is made of mud mixed with grass and weeds, lined with soft materials su
ch as plant fibers, rootlets, hair.
Eggs: 4, sometimes 3-6. White; some (thought to be the last laid) may have reddish brown dots. Incubation is by female only, 15-17 days.
Young: Fed by both parents. May leave nest 2-3 weeks after hatching. Usually 2 broods per year, rarely 3.

Feeding habits

Almost entirely insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects including beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, wild bees, wasps, flies, moths, caterpillars. Occasionally eats small fish.
Behavior: Forages by watching from a perch and darting out to catch insects, often just above water. Catches insects in midair, or may hover while picking them from foliage or sometimes from water’s
surface. May also take insects from the ground, especially in cool weather. Indigestible parts of insects are coughed up as pellets. Male and female maintain separate feeding territories in winter.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Black Phoebe status Least Concern


Southwestern United States to northern Argentina. Migration: Mostly a permanent resident, but departs in fall from highest elevations and from northern edge of range in Southwest.

Distribution map

Black Phoebe distribution range map

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