Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah
Rec. # O_2009-03

Common name:

Black Phoebe 

Scientific name: Sayornis nigricans
Date: 7 Jun 2008
Time: 1:00 PM
Length of time observed: 2-4 minutes
Number: 5
Age: One adult and four fledglings
Sex: Unknown
Location: South Fork of Mill Creek, near the junction with the North Fork (~UTM 063750, 4268700). Approximately 2 miles east-southeast of Moab.
County: Grand
Latilong: 18. Moab
Elevation: ~1325 m
Distance to bird: ~20 feet
Optical equipment: 10x25 Minolta binoculars, Pentax Optio W30 digital camera
Weather: Sunny, 95% clear, wind 0-15 mph, air 27.2 degrees C
Light Conditions: Bright direct overhead lighting
Description:        Size of bird: Medium songbird, phoebe-sized
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Tyrant flycatcher
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Mostly black with white belly
(Description:)            Bill Type: relatively short and straight
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Songbird with black head, back, wings, tail, breast, and sides. White belly distinctly set of from black breast. Faint buffy edging to some of the coverts. Dark eyes. The adult had a solid black bill; the juveniles all had bright yellow-orange bills that were darker dusky at the tips.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: "Peep" call notes heard repeatedly.
Behavior: Four fledglings flushed from a mud nest under an overhaning rock on a rock face(see photo) and into the nearby trees (willows or Russian olives?) as I hiked up the streambed. I paused and watched as an adult returned to feed the fledglings which were now all perched in the trees.
Habitat: Desert riparian zone in the lowlands around the La Sal Mountains. Habitat photo attached was taken about 45 minutes' walk upstream of this nest.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
A distinctive flycatcher species. Eastern Phoebe has a white throat; these birds had black throats and breasts. Blackbirds have black bellies; these birds had white bellies. No other species recorded in North America has the pattern of black and white that this species does.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen Black and Eastern Phoebes on many occassions.
References consulted: Kaufman's Field Guide to Birds of North America and Sibley's western guide were consulted after the observation but I was familiar with this species in the field without a guide.
Description from: From memory
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Drive, Logan UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None.
Date prepared: 23 Oct 2009
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: This is not a review species in Utah but I am submitting this as a "Special Sighting". Although I have heard of a handful of other reports of this species in this part of Utah, most records are from the SW corner of the state. Most importantly, this is the first record of successful breeding by this species in the SW part of Utah, as far as I could determine. This is an extralimital breeding record for the species anyhwere in its inland range. Breeding records for this species are typically much further south or west.

Details of location and weather are from notes taken at the time of the sighting. Descriptions of the birds are from memory and photographs.