Adults have brownish-grey upperparts with an orange-brown belly and light grey on the throat and breast. Juveniles have cinnamon wing bars; adults have no wing bars.
Their breeding habitat is dry open or semi-open areas across western North America from Alaska to Mexico, including towns. They make an open cup nest in a natural or man-made cavity or on a ledge. They lay 3-6 eggs per clutch and incubate them for 12-14 days. The female Say's phoebe inucbates the eggs exculsively but both parents may feed the nestlings. The nestlings fledge 14-17 days after hatching. These phoebes may reuse their nest for another clutch in the same season or pick a new nesting site.
These birds migrate to southern Mexico. They are permanent residents in the southern parts of their range.
They wait on a perch on a shrub or rock and fly out to catch insects in flight, also foraging by hovering over fields. They sometimes eat certain berries.
The song is a quick pit-see-ar. The call is a whistled pee-ee. These two vocalizations are often heard in incessant alternation.
The numbers of this bird are declining, probably due to loss of habitat in its winter range.
This bird was named for Thomas Say, the American naturalist.
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