Say’s Phoebe At Last

This Say’s Phoebe was driving me crazy. It perched on a tall plant in the nature area, and just as I got it in focus, it flew away. Wash, rinse, repeat. At last it found a perch where it was comfortable, and it allowed me to film it for two solid minutes (edited down to one, here) in the morning light, where it looked ever so pretty.

The Say’s is a cousin of the Black Phoebe, but not seen in the park as often as the black. It’s a highly versatile bird, as these “Cool Facts” from the Cornell bird lab website make clear:

  • Charles Bonaparte, a nephew of Napoleon, named the Say’s Phoebe after American naturalist Thomas Say, the first scientist to encounter the bird, at a site near Cañon City, Colorado, in 1819. During the same expedition, Say also collected 10 additional bird species. Despite finding several new bird species in his career, Say is perhaps better known as the “father of American entomology.”
  • Say’s Phoebes have been in the U.S. for a long time. Paleontologists discovered Say’s Phoebe fossils in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas dating back to about 400,000 years ago (the late Pleistocene).
  • The Say’s Phoebe breeds farther north than any other flycatcher and is seemingly limited only by the lack of nest sites. Its breeding range extends from central Mexico all the way to the arctic tundra. It may be following the Alaska pipeline even farther north, nesting on the pipeline itself.
  • When a Say’s Phoebe finds a good nesting site, it often uses the nest year after year. In central Kansas a Say’s Phoebe reused the same nest 5 years in a row.
  • Say’s Phoebes will nest just about anywhere: in mailboxes, on machinery, and even in old nests built by other species. Researchers reported them using nests built by Black and Eastern phoebes, Cliff, Bank, and Barn swallows, and American Robins.
Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)

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