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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Black Phoebe -- Sayornis nigricans

RANGE: Resident from northwestern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, south-central Colorado, and western and west-central Texas south to South America. (Partially migratory, northern populations wander after the breeding season).

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Occurs in a variety of open and wooded habitats, usually near water, especially in drier regions. Found in the vicinity of streams, canals, lake margins, reservoirs, or other riparian sites flanked by grasslands, scattered trees, open woodlands or farmland. During migration and in winter, found at almost any source of water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Vertical surface for nesting that is protected from rain, near a mud source, and preferably near water.

NEST: Builds a mud nest commonly under bridges, in culverts and wells, under the eaves of buildings as well as on the vertical surfaces of cliffs, rimrocks, steep creek banks, and caverns. May use the same nest site year after year.

FOOD: Catches insects over grassy fields and open water, or gleans them from plant foliage. Also eats some fruits of buckthorn.

REFERENCES: Ohlendorf 1976, Phillips et al. 1964, Terres 1980.

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