• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Say's Phoebe

Sayornis saya ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TYRANNIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Like other phoebes, the Say’s Phoebe is seemingly undaunted by people and often nests on buildings. These open-country birds have cinnamon-washed underparts and a rather gentle expression. They sally from low perches to snatch insects in midair or pounce on them on the ground. Say’s Phoebes often pump their tails while perched on a wire, fence post, or low bush. They breed farther north than any other flycatcher and are seemingly limited only by the lack of nest sites.

Songs

The song of the Say’s Phoebe consists of 2 rather simple vocalizations repeated over and over: a clear, slurred whistle and a burry, hiccupping note. Each phrase is less than 1 second long, but they repeat the phrases for several minutes.

Calls

The most common call note is the clear slurred whistle given without the burry note (see song description). Both sexes also chatter while interacting.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our NestWatch pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size for a Say's Phoebe on All About Birdhouses.

Say’s Phoebes don’t come to feeders, but they may use your backyard as a place to catch insects or even build a nest under the eaves of your house or other structure in your yard. A well-placed shelf attached to a building may attract a pair. Learn more about where to place a nesting shelf and how to build one at NestWatch

Create bird friendly habitat in your yard by planting native shrubs. Creating habitat in your yard can provide foraging opportunities for the Say’s Phoebe. Learn more about creating habitat at Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

Say’s Phoebes really blend into their desert surroundings despite their cinnamon-washed bellies. They can be quite vocal at times which helps locate them, but at other times they are quiet and can easily go undetected. Listen for a clear, slurred whistle and a burry, hiccupping note. Keep your eyes low to the ground and watch for quick movements from low shrubs as they sally out to grab an insect or two. Look for them perched on top of low shrubs or fence posts. During the breeding season, they may be found around buildings; you may even be able to spot a nest under an eave.

Get Involved

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count and tell us how many species you see in your yard. Find out more at Great Backyard Bird Count.

Learn more about nesting habitats of Say’s Phoebes and participate in Project NestWatch.

×

Search

Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
×
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.