This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

In the American West, there are two species of phoebe that share the same expansive country. They’re both flycatchers, but they rarely compete for food because they’ve evolved to occupy different habitats.

The Say’s Phoebe’s voice echoes off the rocks of almost any dry canyon west of the Rockies. 

A small brown flycatcher with an orange belly, the Say’s Phoebe is named for Thomas Say, an early 19th Century explorer and naturalist. It prefers dry, open habitats ranging from tundra to desert — usually well away from trees or water. It’s just as happy nesting among stone carvings in an Aztec ruin in central Mexico as it is on a cliff face north of the Arctic Circle. No other North American flycatcher ranges nearly so far north. 

The Black Phoebe is a close cousin to the Say’s. But it’s nearly always hunting by a body of water. You’ll find it alongside creeks, reservoirs, or even the tiniest pond in a back yard or garden.

Their voices set them apart, too. The brisk phrases of the Black Phoebe’s song…standing in a sharp contrast to the plaintive refrain of the Say’s Phoebe.

With which it shares the American West.

Today's show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.



Written by Bob Sundstrom

​Narrator: Michael Stein

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2016 Tune In to  October 2018/July 2020  

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Say’s Phoebe [191105] recorded by W L Hershberger; Black Phoebe [126464] recorded by Thomas G Sander

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

ID# SAPH-BLPH-01-2016-07-28    SAPH-BLPH-01

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