Genus Sayornis (Phoebes) Identification Guide

The Genus Sayornis contains three species: the Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans), Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), and Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya). This guide will go over the identification, habitat, vocalizations, and range of each species.

The Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) is 6-7 inches (about 15-18 centimeters) long. This species has a mostly black body, with a white belly and white undertail coverts (the part of the underparts just before the tail). Juveniles are similar to adults, but have two cinnamon wing bars. Adults from Eastern Panama and South America are almost entirely dark, with white edges to the wing feathers. Like other phoebes, this species frequently pumps its tail up and down when perched. Often found near water, look for this species near lakes, rivers, ponds, etc. Can be found in urban areas, especially if water is nearby. Vocalizations: Range map: Sightings:,

The Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) is 5-7 inches (about 13-18 centimeters) long, with a wingspan of 10-11 inches (about 25-28 centimeters). This species is brownish-gray above (darkest on the head, wings, and tail) with white underparts. On the breast there is a dusky wash, and freshly molted birds (usually in Fall) have a yellow belly. Similar to some species in the genera Contopus and Empidonax, all-dark bill, lack of wing bars, and lack of an eye ring distinguish this species from other non-phoebe flycatchers. Found in woodlands, farmlands, suburban, and urban areas. Often nests in bridges, houses, and barns. Vocalizations: Range map: Sightings:,

The Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) is 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) long. This species is grayish-brown above, with a lighter gray breast, black tail, peach undertail coverts, and a peach belly. Juveniles are similar to adults, but browner, and occasionally have a buffy wing bar. Similar at first glance to the Eastern Phoebe, but this species' peach belly distinguishes it from Eastern Phoebe. Found in dry, open areas, canyons, and cliffs. Perches on boulders, fences, and bushes. Vocalizations: Range map: Sightings:,

Posted on January 01, 2023 12:06 AM by salmonadder salmonadder


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