Family Tyrant-flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Least Concern

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)


French: Moucherolle à ventre roux German: Zimtbauch-Phoebetyrann Spanish: Mosquero llanero

Muscicapa saya


, 1825,

Arkansas River, near Pueblo, Colorado, USA


Geographical variation in colour weak, perhaps clinal, with paler coloration in arid environments; analysis confounded by problems of wear and fading in museum specimens. Birds from Alaska and NW Canada described as race yukonensis and those of Mexican Plateau as pallidus, but both merged with nominate; further research may indicate that one or both should be upheld. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. s. saya (Bonaparte, 1825) – N Alaska S through W Canada and W & WC USA to C Mexico; winters from S USA (California E to Texas) S to C & S Mexico.
  • S. s. quiescens Grinnell, 1926 – NW Mexico (N Baja California and Cedros I).
  • Descriptive notes

    17–19·5 cm. Slender and relatively small-headed. Nominate race is pale brown-grey above, forehead slightly paler, shading to darker grey crown and nape, lores... read more


    Most common vocalization “phee-eur”, sometimes described as slurred “peeu”... read more


    Breeds in open dry habitats, including prairie, sagebrush, badlands, arid and subtropical scrub,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly arthropods, occasionally some fruit. Diet includes bees and wasps (Hymenoptera), house flies (Muscidae), robber flies (Asilidae),... read more


    Mid-Apr to early Aug in much of USA and Canada and Mar–Sept in Mexico; commonly double-brooded. Hovering nest-site-showing display by... read more


    Partial short-distance to long-distance migrant; present all year in much of SW USA and Mexico.... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common to common. Estimated global population 3,700,000 individuals. Survey data from 1966 to 1996 indicate annual increase of 1·9%... read more

    Recommended citation

    Farnsworth, A. & Lebbin, D. (2019). Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya). 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).