Bird of the Week

Posted Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Say’s phoebe.

This slender flycatcher is a little larger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin. Its back is a pale brownish gray that blends to a buff-colored abdomen, gray breast and black tail. Its head can look flat on top or peaked at the back. Its bill is wide and flattened to improve its chance of catching its airborne prey. Male and female are generally indistinguishable.

Say’s phoebes often remain perched on a wire, fence post or low bush, pumping their tails up and down, until they spot their prey. Phoebes snatch beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and bees out of the air. They have the ability to hover before they attack, returning to their perch with their meal.

They may visit your backyard as a place to catch insects or even to build a nest. Undaunted by human presence, phoebes often nest under the eaves of houses and in barns. They prefer having a solid overhang to protect their nest. If they find a good nesting site, they may return to it year after year, giving you an opportunity to observe them. Planting native shrubs around your home can also improve its appeal as a bird-friendly habitat.

Say’s phoebes generally migrate south in early October. They return to the dry, open terrain throughout Archuleta County in early March.

For local bird-watching information, visit and