The phainopepla or northern phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)
is the most northerly representative of the mainly tropical Central American
family Ptiliogonatidae, the silky flycatchers. Its name is from the Greek phain
pepla meaning "shining robe" in reference to the male's plumage.
The phainopepla is a striking bird, 16?20 cm (6.3?7.9 in) long with a
noticeable crest and a long tail; it is slender, and has an upright posture when
Its bill is short and slender. The male is glossy black, and has a
white wing patch that is visible when it flies; the female is plain gray and has
a lighter gray wing patch. Both sexes have red eyes, but these are more
noticeable in the female than the male.
Range and habitat
The phainopepla ranges as far north as central
California with the San Joaquin Valley and southern Utah, and south to central
Mexico, the interior Mexican Plateau region; the southern edge of the plateau,
the transverse mountains is its non-breeding home.
It is found in hot areas, including desert oases, and is readily seen
in the deserts of Arizona, southern Nevada, and southern California; also the
Baja Peninsula, both Baja California-(north), and Baja California Sur where they
are only breeding resident birds.
Extreme individuals have travelled as far as Canada, with one bird in 2009
reaching as far north as Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Berries, many small insects, fruits, vegetables. Phainopepla have a
specialized mechanism in their gizzard that shucks berry skins off the fruit and
packs the skins separately from the rest of the fruit into the intestines for
more efficient digestion. So far this is the only known bird able to do this.
They appear to relish the fruit of Phoradendron californicum, the desert
It nests in the spring. The eggs are gray or pink and speckled, and the
incubation, done by both the male and female, takes fifteen days. The young will
be reared by the parents for up to nineteen more days.
Phainopeplas have been found to imitate the calls of twelve other species,
such as the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and the northern flicker