Common Name

Scientific Name

View Utah Distribution Map

Photo by David Behmer
Photo Copyright David Behmer

The breeding range of Say's phoebe, Sayornis saya, extends from southern Mexico to the arctic tundra of Alaska and northwestern Canada. It prefers to breed in open woodlands, farmland, or savannahs, and it typically avoids coastal regions and heavily forested areas. It winters in California, the southern portion of the Great Basin, the southwestern United States, and south to southern Mexico. It is a common summer resident in lowland areas throughout Utah, and is an occasional visitor to southern Utah during the winter.

Its diet consists primarily of flying insects, but it will also hover over the ground searching for terrestrial insects. Both sexes engage in a "nest-site-showing" display and the female selects the nesting location. Unlike the black phoebe, Say's phoebe does not require mud for nest construction, so the presence of water is not a requirement in nest site selection. Natural nest sites include caves, covered ledges, and tree cavities. Say's phoebe also take advantage of human-made nesting sites, such as mines, abandoned buildings, bridges, and barns. The base of the circular nest may consist of a variety of substrates, including rocks, wood, grasses, moss, and animal hair. The nest is then lined with a fine material such as wool, hair, or paper. The female incubates her clutch of four or five eggs for about two weeks. Both parents care for the hatchlings, and the chicks leave the nest after about two weeks. The young still receive parental care after leaving the nest. The parents may have as many as three broods in one breeding season.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Shukman, J. M., and B. O. Wolf. 1998. Sayís Phoebe (Sayornis saya). Birds of North America 374.