A Black Phoebe yawns on its perch while waiting for insects to emerge over the Arcata Salt Marsh.
These small songbirds feed almost exclusively on insects and spiders, making short flights from a favored perch to grab prey off the ground, the water’s surface or out of the air. Native to the western coasts of temperate and tropical North and South America, they are usually spotted perched low over water. Here, one makes quick work of a passing damselfly in the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary:
When it comes time to nest, a male Black Phoebe will approach a female and display by hovering near her and chasing her if she moves away. If the female accepts, the male will scout out potential nesting locations and show them off to his mate by fanning his tail and zig-zagging or spiraling upward next to a cliff face or the eves of a building. The female makes the final decision about where the nest will be built; after a male’s display, she will accept or reject the location, and they will move on to the next potential site if necessary. When a nesting site is chosen, the pair will construct mud shell lined with vegetation, similar to that of a Cliff Swallow, where they will tend up to six eggs.