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Say's Phoebe

Sayornis saya

Length: 7.5 inches Wingspan: 12.5 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Pale orange-buff belly and undertail, gray upperparts.

Say's Phoebe - Sayornis sayaSay's Phoebe is a phoebe of drier habitats in the western part of the U.S, and are primarily found in the western half of South Dakota. They have an extremely broad breeding range, from Mexico to Alaska, breeding further north than any other flycatcher species in North America.  They will often nest on and around farm buildings in the western part of the state.  They can often be seen on the highest perch in a particular area, keeping an eye out for insects.  Where a suitable perch is absent, they will also hover as they forage.


Prefers open terrain such as prairies, rangeland, farmland, and canyons. They will also use human structures for nesting.


Almost exclusively insects, rarely berries. Has the lovely habit of coughing up indigestible insect parts.


Typical flycatcher behavior when foraging...observing from a perch, and flying out to catch insects when they are spotted. 


May through July. The nest of a Say's Phoebe is a cup constructed of pieces of roots, bark, leaves, twigs, and grasses, with a lined inner cup of finer materials such as grass, moss, spiders webs, or animal hair. The nest is built on a ledge partially protected from the elements above, which can be a cliff face, the wall of a cave, or a man made structure like a bridge or a building. The female lays between 3 and 7 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after about 2 weeks, and fledge from the nest another 2 weeks after hatching.


The song of a Say's Phoebe is a descending, slurred whistling note.

1Click here to hear the song of a Say's Phoebe

2Click here to hear another version of a Say's Phoebe song


Summers in Western U.S., Canada, and Alaska.  Winters in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and Central America.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Say's Phoebe sightings

Similar Species:

Potentially confused with other flycatcher species

Conservation Status:

Generally stable or potentially increasing in some areas.  They have learned to adapt to human presence, and now often nest in residential areas. They are found across a broad geographic area and are common in parts of their range. The IUCN considers Say's Phoebe to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) BirdWeb - Say's Phoebe

2) Audubon Guide - Say's Phoebe

3) WhatBird - Say's Phoebe

Photo Information:

May 2nd, 2008 - Bryce Canyon, Utah - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Say's Phoebe photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Frank Lambert - Recorded in Pima County, Arizona on April 14th, 2018. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

2Bruce Lagerquist - Recorded in Yakima County, Washington on April 3rd, 2016. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Say's Phoebe - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Fairly common summer resident in the western 2/3rds of the state

Additional Say's Phoebe Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya Say's Phoebe 7 - Sayornis saya
Say's Phoebe 8 - Sayornis saya