• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Black Phoebe

Sayornis nigricans ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TYRANNIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Black Phoebe is a dapper flycatcher of the western U.S. 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 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, all the way to the salt-sprayed rocks and cliffs of the Pacific Ocean.

Drink Birds & Beans coffee. Save our birds.
YardMap Be on the Map

Songs

Male Black Phoebes sing a long series of repeated tee-hee tee-hoo notes to defend territories and attract mates.

Calls

Black Phoebes give tsip calls throughout the year during flight, foraging, and predator interactions. When chasing mates or intruders, they give a tweedle-deedle-eek call. During the breeding season males address females with soft, wheezy chatters.

Other Sounds

Black Phoebes threaten intruders by snapping their bill together.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Black Phoebes do well around humans. They don’t come to feeders, but they may use your backyard as a place to catch insects, or even build nests under eaves of a building, especially if there is water or mud nearby.

Find This Bird

Within their range, Black Phoebes are common and conspicuous near sources of water and around human development. They usually stay low to the ground and perch in the open, so scan low branches, rocks and shrubs along the edges of streams, lakes, estuaries, and the seashore. The bird’s distinctive tail-pumping can help you recognize it from afar. Black Phoebes very often call out with a shrill, scratchy chip.