Family Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Least Concern

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)


French: Moucherolle noir German: Schwarzkopf-Phoebetyrann Spanish: Mosquero negro

Tyrannula nigricans


, 1827,



S races latirostis and angustirostris (sometimes synonymized) occasionally considered a separate species. Variation clinal: starting in N, extent of white in wings and on belly generally decreasing N to S; white in wings abruptly increasing S of Isthmus of Panama, thence extent of white, and size, increasing towards S. Spelling of races semiater and aquaticus corrected, as genus is masculine#R. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. n. semiater (Vigors, 1839) – W USA (S from coastal Oregon, SE to W & C Texas) and W Mexico (Baja California, Sonora to N Coahuila, Zacatecas and N Nayarit).
  • S. n. nigricans (Swainson, 1827) – Black Phoebe – N, C & S Mexico (S Coahuila and Jalisco to S Chiapas).
  • S. n. aquaticus P. L. Sclater & Salvin, 1859 – Mexico (NE Chiapas) S to C Honduras and NC Nicaragua.
  • S. n. amnicola Bangs, 1902 – Costa Rica and W Panama (Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro).
  • S. n. angustirostris Berlepsch & Stolzmann, 1896 – C & E Panama (E from E Colón), Santa Marta Mts, Sierra de Perijá and Coastal Range of N Venezuela S through Andes to C Bolivia.
  • S. n. latirostris (Cabanis & Heine, 1860) – #RWhite-winged Phoebe – mountains and foothills of C & S Bolivia (S from Cochabamba) and NW Argentina (S to Catamarca).
  • Descriptive notes

    15–18 cm; 18 g. Nominate race has head, upperparts and breast sooty black; wings sooty black, paler margins on wing-coverts (two faint wingbars) and on secondaries (... read more


    Typical song of two elements, “tee-hee, tee-hoo”, alone or in combination, occasionally... read more


    Semi-open and shaded areas near water, including streams, rivers, lakes, coastal cliffs; also... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly insects and other arthropods, including bees and wasps (Hymenoptera), flies (Diptera), termites (Isoptera), beetles (Coleoptera... read more


    Breeds Mar–Jun (pairing Jan–Feb) in SW USA (California); Apr–May in N Colombia (Santa Marta), Jul–Oct in Andes, and... read more


    Resident over most of range; some populations at least partially migratory. Movement patterns,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common. Global population estimated at 970,000 individuals. Survey data for USA indicate that this species increased by 1·8% annually... read more

    Recommended citation

    Farnsworth, A. & Lebbin, D. (2019). Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 14 December 2019).