|Conservation status||Numbers apparently stable, possibly increasing in some areas where artificial ponds have added to nesting habitat.|
|Habitat||Shady streams, walled canyons, farmyards, towns; near water. Occurs in a variety of semi-open habitats. Rarely found away from vicinity of water, which may be natural streams or ponds, or irrigation ditches or even water troughs; water ensures the availability of mud for nests.|
Forages by watching from a perch and darting out to catch insects, often just above water. Catches insects in mid-air, or may hover while picking them from foliage or sometimes from water's surface. May also take insects from the ground, especially in cool weather. Indigestible parts of insects are coughed up as pellets. Male and female maintain separate feeding territories in winter.
4, sometimes 3-6. White; some (thought to be the last laid) may have reddish-brown dots. Incubation is by female only, 15-17 days. Young: Fed by both parents. May leave nest 2-3 weeks after hatching. Usually 2 broods per year, rarely 3.
Fed by both parents. May leave nest 2-3 weeks after hatching. Usually 2 broods per year, rarely 3.
Almost entirely insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects including beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, wild bees, wasps, flies, moths, caterpillars. Occasionally eats small fish.
In courtship, male performs song-flight display, fluttering in the air with rapidly repeated calls, then descending slowly. Nest: Mud nests are usually plastered to sheltered spot such as cliff face, bridge support, culvert, or under eaves of building. Occasionally in well a few feet below ground level. Often returns to same nesting site year after year. Nest (probably built by female) is an open cup, semi-circular if attached to vertical wall, circular if placed on flat beam. Nest is made of mud mixed with grass and weeds, lined with soft materials such as plant fibers, rootlets, hair.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Mostly a permanent resident, but departs in fall from highest elevations and from northern edge of range in southwest.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsSong is a thin, buzzy pi-tsee, usually repeated. Call is a sharp, down-slurred chip.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Black Phoebe
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Black Phoebe
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.