PhainopeplaPhainopepla nitens

adult male
Bob Steele/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Rob Curtis/VIREO
juvenile
Greg Lasley/VIREO
Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Description

7-7 3/4" (18-20 cm). Larger than a sparrow. A slender, elegant bird with a conspicuous crest, longish tail, and upright posture. Male glossy black, with 2 white wing patches that show only in flight. Females and juveniles plain gray with pale wing patches.

Voice

Common calls include an up-slurred whistled hoooeet and a low quirk. The short warbled song is rarely heard.

Listen

calls
song
calls

Habitat

Desert scrub, but does not have strong preference for desert; it favors hot country with single, tall trees, preferably with mistletoe or other berries available when flying insects are scarce.

Range

Breeds in northern interior California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and southern New Mexico southward into Mexico. Winters in southern part of breeding range.

Discussion

The Phainopepla is the northernmost of a group of tropical birds that feed on mistletoe. In the Southwest the berries are seasonal, so it supplements them with insects, which it takes from the air in long sallies, like a typical flycatcher.

Nesting

2-4 pale greenish, speckled eggs in a simple shallow nest placed in a mistletoe-bearing desert tree, such as the mesquite along washes, or in a tall tree bordering a river.

Similar Species

adult

Red-whiskered Bulbul

8" (20 cm). Grayish above, whitish below, with long conspicuous black crest, red cheek patch and undertail coverts, and black, white-tipped tail.

adult

Gray Catbird

8-9 1/4" (20-23 cm). Smaller than a robin. A slender, long-tailed, dark gray bird with black cap and rusty undertail coverts.

adult

Northern Mockingbird

9-11" (23-28 cm). Robin-sized. A slender, long-tailed gray bird with white patches on wings and tail.

adult

Cedar Waxwing

6 1/2-8" (17-20 cm). Smaller than a robin. A sleek, crested, brown bird with black mask, yellow tips (sometimes reddish) on tail feathers, and hard red wax-like tips on secondary wing feathers.

Bohemian Waxwing

7 1/2 -8 1/2" (19-22 cm). A sleek, gray-brown, crested bird. Similar to Cedar Waxwing but larger, grayer, and with conspicuous white wing patches and rusty (not white) undertail coverts.

Vireo

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