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Say's Phoebe - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Leslie
Hereford, Arizona, USA, 4 April 2007
Sayornis saya


Length 17–19·5 cm (6¾-7¾ in), weight 21 g
A medium-small grayish bird with distinctive rich rufous underparts and pale gray wing bars; dark eyestripe. Black tail.
Sexes similar; juvenile differs in orangey-buff wingbars.

Similar Species

Female Vermilion Flycatcher is superficially similar, but differs in smaller size, shorter tail, streaked breast, and weak whitish supercilium.

Subspecies S. s. saya
Photo © by DJ ODonnell
Loveland, Larimer Co., Colorado, 23 April 2018


Western U.S. except for coastal areas in summer; moves south to along coasts and along U.S.-Mexican border for winter, range extends southward into Mexico.



There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • S. s. saya: Darker, smaller bill.
  • S. s. quiescens: Paler, larger bill.


Open country: prairie, desert, fields, arid scrub.


They pump their tail down and up.


Their main diet consists of arthropods, with some bees, flies, wasps and fruit also consumed.


Mid-April to early August in much of USA and Canada and March to September in Mexico; often double-brooded. Hovering nest-site-showing display by male with wings fluttering in shallow arc while repeating chatter vocalizations. Mud nest requires sheltered ledge. Clutch usually of 4–5 white eggs.


Distinctive call is a mournful descending whistle often described as melancholy call and despondent.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Farnsworth, A. & Lebbin, D. (2018). Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/57382 on 6 December 2018).
  3. Schukman, J. M. and B. O. Wolf (1998). Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.374

Recommended Citation

External Links

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