Sayornis Saya – Say’s Phoebe

Sayornis Saya - Say's Phoebe found in the western part of US

Say’s phoebe, Sayornis saya is a tyrant flycatcher-like passerine bird. It is a widespread bird in western North America, preferring dry, lonely regions. This bird was named after the American naturalist Thomas Say.

Quick Overview: Sayornis Saya – Say’s Phoebe
Body size: Around 7-8 in (18-20 cm) and a weight of 20 g (0.7 oz)
Main colors: Brown-Gray, Brown-Black, White
Range: Western United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: E.g. Least Concern

Say’s Phoebe Description

Upperparts of adults Pale brown-gray with a darker head and hindneck; tail brownish-black with a white outer web of the outer rectrix; wings deep brownish-gray with a buffy brownish-gray chin, throat, and upper breast. Say’s Phoebe’s cinnamon belly and under the tail, coverts are unusual among North American flycatchers.

Sayornis Saya - Say's Phoebe found in the western part of US
Sayornis Saya – Say’s Phoebe. Photo by: Renee Grayson


These birds have a length of 7-8 in (18-20 cm) and a weight of 20 g (0.7 oz). Their wings could range from 12-13 in (30-33 cm).


The principal food of Say’s Phoebes is insects. They consume a range of terrestrial insects in addition to the regular flying species.


The Say’s Phoebe breeds further north than any other flycatcher and appears to be limited solely by a shortage of nesting grounds. Its breeding range stretches from middle Mexico to the arctic tundra. It could be following the Alaska pipeline even further north, nesting on it.


Say’s Phoebe may hover low over the fields in open areas where there are few high perches to watch for insects in the grass. Adapts well to changes in the environment, frequently nesting in residential settings.

Sayornis Saya Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Tyrannidae
  • Genus: Sayornis
  • Species: Sayornis saya

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Say’s Phoebe in the USA

Breeds from central Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories south to Texas in the western United States. Winters in coastal Oregon and California, east through Texas, and throughout most of Mexico. Parts of Mexico’s southwest and north are home to this species.

The Say’s Phoebe can be found in the following states in the United States – Kansas, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Sayornis Saya – Say’s Phoebe

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