Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
Black Phoebes range from the California coast to west Texas, then south through Central America to northwest Argentina. Distribution is often limited by suitable structures upon which the phoebe can build its mud nest.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here.
Black Phoebes need water and mud for nesting; they reside along stream banks and ponds in open country, farmlands, parks, and residential yards. These birds prefer areas with a mix of openings and shrubs or thickets. The Black Phoebe is at home from sea level to 2,500 meters above.
From a medium to low perch, the Black Phoebe drops to snatch its prey from above, often just at ground or water surface level. This flycatcher rarely feeds on the ground, but will pick food from nearby leaves or branches. Food items include flies, bees, ants, spiders, beetles, moths, and caterpillars. Some Black Phoebes learn to pluck small fish from the water.
For North American Black Phoebes, monogamous pairs begin courtship activities in late January, and often return to the same site every year. Females prefer rock or cement walls with cover for the nest, mud for its construction, and water with shrubby vegetation for foraging.
Using mud and stringy plant material, the female builds half a bowl onto a ledge or wall, lays 3 to 6 white eggs, and incubates them for 16 to 17 days, while males defend the nest area and occasionally incubate as well. The young fledge in 18 to 21 days and attain independence in another week to ten days. Juvenile Black Phoebes inhabit dense cover, and their habits are poorly known. Pairs usually produce two broods per season.
For the most part, Black Phoebes are permanent residents throughout their wide range, but northern birds withdraw from parts of the American Southwest in winter. Other local movements may also occur.