Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) males are a glossy black color. Its common and genus names derive from the Greek meaning “shiny robe”, an accurate description of the phainopepla’s plumage. Female phainopepla are brownish-grey. Both sexes have red eyes, long tails and wispy crests. Males have a white wing patch visible in flight. The female’s wing patch is grey. Immatures are brownish with brown eyes.

Phainopepla are one of four New World tropical members of the silky flycatcher family and the only  silky flycatcher that breeds in the United States. They can be found in arid scrub habitats of the desert Southwest during the winter and spring, moving higher elevations during the summer.

The phainopepla diet consists of berries and flying insects, particularly desert mistletoe berries. Phainopepla have a close relationship with desert mistletoe and play an integral role in seed dispersal. Rarely drinking water, phainopepla get most of their water from their food.

Phainopepla often breed twice a year. The first nest is in the mesquite brushlands of the desert, while the second nest is built in woodlands and chaparral at the higher elevations of their summer range, usually far from the first nest. Phainopepla are territorial while in their desert habitat, yet in the woodlands at higher elevations they are colonial, placing several nests in the same tree.

Phainopepla can mimic the calls of up to 13 other avian species.

These phainopepla were photographed at several locations in Green Valley AZ.

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2 Responses to Phainopepla

  1. Lin Erickson says:

    A real treat!

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