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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

Say's Phoebe -- Sayornis saya

RANGE: Breeds from western and northern Alaska, northern Yukon, northwestern and central Mackenzie, and central Alberta to southwestern Manitoba, south between coastal ranges and central prairie states to Mexico. Winters from northern California, Arizona, central New Mexico, and central Texas south to Mexico.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits open arid regions, occurring in dry, barren foothills, sagebrush plains, scrubby pine-oak-juniper woodlands, bluffs and cliffs of the badlands, grasslands, canyons, and open areas near buildings. Unlike the eastern phoebe, it is independent of surface water.

NEST: Prefers to nest in holes, crevices, on ledges, and on other protected horizontal surfaces of cliffs, rimrocks, steep creek banks, and caverns. Frequently nests in abandoned mine shafts, buildings, and under bridges. Also uses old nests of cliff swallows, barn swallows, and black phoebes; often uses the same nest in subsequent years or for successive clutches.

FOOD: Eats mostly insects (primarily grasshoppers) and some berries.

REFERENCES: Beal 1912, Bent 1942, Johnsgard 1979, Ohlendorf 1976, Terres 1980.

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