Black Phoebe

Sayornis nigricans




Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

White, sometimes with red brown spots

Number of Eggs:

3 - 6

Incubation Days:

15 - 17

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

Attached to vertical surface or shelf or beam

Nest Material:

Made of mud pellets and moss and lined with vegetation.


Some migrate



Black Phoebe: Medium-sized flycatcher with mostly black body and white belly. Outer tail feathers and undertail coverts are white. Sexes are similar. Juvenile has subtle brown scales on back.

Range and Habitat

Black Phoebe: This species is a resident from coastal Oregon, throughout California and southwestern U.S. to western Texas; it also occurs throughout Mexico and into the tropics. Its preferred habitats include shady areas near water, streams, ponds, and lakes; it also occurs in city parks and open chaparral in winter.

Breeding and Nesting

Black Phoebe: Three to six white eggs, sometimes with red brown spots, are laid in a mud, moss, and grass nest lined with soft material, often feathers or cow hair, and built under a bridge, on a sheltered ledge, in a crevice, in an old building, or in hanging roots near the top of an embankment close to water. Incubation ranges from 15 to 17 days and is carried out by the female.

Foraging and Feeding

Black Phoebe: Hunts for food from a low, shaded perch where it watches for insects and swoops down to catch them in mid-air. Occasionally snatches food from the water's surface, ground, or vegetation; also eats small fish caught at the water's surface. Coughs up indigestible insect parts in the form of pellets.


Black Phoebe: Song is a thin, buzzing "pi-tsee", usually repeated. Call is a sharp, down-slurred "chip."

Similar Species

Black Phoebe: Eastern Phoebe has olive-gray sides and breast; gray-brown upperparts, and white underparts. Eastern Kingbird is larger, has black head, gray-black upperparts, and white underparts.

Undertail covertsX
Small feathers that cover the areas where the retrices (tail feathers) attach to the rump.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
Outer tail feathersX
The tail feathers farthest from the center.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X