Black Phoebe – Sayornis nigricans

A medium-sized flycatcher with a sooty-black back and head with a white belly. Typically seen singly or in pairs, usually sitting conspicuously on a low perch often near water. The Black Phoebe can frequently be seen pumping its tail up and down.

Black Phoebe at Merced NWR 11/18/2021

View from the Valley 

The Black Phoebe is a common year round valley resident that may turn up in your backyard. They are quite vocal giving a Tsip call throughout the year and in several different contexts (e.g., during flight, foraging, interaction with potential nest predator). They can be found in almost any habitat that includes water, i.e., streams, wetlands, ponds and backyard pools. The Black Phoebe is insectivorous and can usually be seen flying out from a low perch to catch flying insects and other arthropods.

Black Phoebe at CSU Stanislaus 12/16/2018

Global Conservation Status

This species has an extremely large range, appears to be increasing and the population size is extremely large (>5,000,000), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable. For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. “BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Sayornis nigricans. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/01/2022.”

Black Phoebe at Basalt Campground, Merced County 4/16/2016

Fun Facts

Black Phoebes are monogamous and frequently raise 2 broods of young during a breeding season. Their adherent nests are composed of a mud shell lined with plant fibers, typically placed over water and plastered to a vertical wall within a few centimeters of a protective ceiling. Nest construction or refurbishment usually begins in March or April and takes from 1 to 3 weeks. (Wolf, B. O. (2020). Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.blkpho.01 on 05/01/2022.) 

Black Phoebe at the San Joaquin River NWR 9/25/2016

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