Black Phoebe

Sayornis nigricans

By Jim Gain

Learn 100 Common Valley Birds is a photo blog series highlighting the 100 most common Valley bird species.

Post #15 in the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series. (Species 20/100.)


The Black Phoebe is a dapper flycatcher of the Central Valley with a sooty black body and crisp white belly. They sit in the open on low perches to scan for insects, often keeping up a running series of shrill chirps. Black Phoebes are Common Year-round Residents and conspicuous near sources of water and around human development.


Forages by watching from a perch and darting out to catch insects, often just above water. Catches insects in mid-air, 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.


Image by Alan Vernon

Black Phoebes use mud to build cup-shaped nests against walls, overhangs, culverts, and bridges. Look for them near any water source from small streams, to suburbs.


The male Black Phoebe gives the female a tour of potential nest sites, hovering in front of each likely spot for 5 to 10 seconds. But it’s the female who makes the final decision and does all the nest construction.

Previous posts from the Learn 100 Common Valley Birds series,

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