Phainopepla: Small, flycatcher-like bird with glossy black body. Head has distinct crest and short, thin, black bill. Wings have large white patches visible in flight. Tail is long. Iris is red. Legs and feet are black. Feeds primarily on mistlestoe berries and small insects. Direct flight is high and fluttery.
Range and Habitat
Phainopepla: Breeds in the northern interior of California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and southern New Mexico southward into Mexico. Spends winters in the southern part of its breeding range. Primarily found in washes, riparian areas, and other habitats that support arid scrubs.
Silky Flycatchers (Ptilogonatidae)
The taxonomic order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez) is a large order of one hundred eighteen families of birds that includes the spectacular birds of paradise, the dancing manakins, and the slender silky-flycatchers.
The Ptilogonatidae (pronounced tih-loh-go-NAH-tih-dee) family, or silky flycatchers, is composed of four species in three genera only found in North America.
All four species of silky flycatchers in three genera occur in North America. These are the Gray and Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers, the Black and Yellow Silky-flycatcher, and the Phainopepla, this last being the only silky-flycatcher species that regularly occurs in the United States.
The Phainopepla is known for its silky black plumage and sleek appearance; the slender look is shared by other members of this family except for the plump Black and Yellow Silky-flycatcher of Costa Rica and Panama.
Medium-sized Passerines, the silky-flycatchers are generally slender with long tails, a longish neck with small head (with a crest in three of the four species), and longish wings. They have fairly long legs and a short, thin bill.
Black, gray, white, and yellow are the main colors in the plumages of silky-flycatchers. True to their name, members of this family have sleek, shining plumage that somewhat resembles silk. This is especially apparent in the black plumage with white wing spots of the male Phainopepla, the female having the same pattern but with gray plumage.
The silky-flycatchers mostly occur in montane forests of Mexico and Central America, with the Phainopepla occurring in arid habitats of the southwestern United States and Mexico. In arid habitats, it prefers the scrubby vegetation of riparian zones.
The Phainopepla is for the most part a permanent resident, northern populations migrating short distances in the winter.
Although the Phainopepla is a rather solitary bird species outside of the breeding season, the three other members of this family are often seen in large flocks. The arboreal silky-flycatchers are highly frugivorous, mostly feeding on small berries that they pluck while perched. Berries of the desert mistletoe are the preferred food source for the Phainopepla although it also catches insects in flight.
Silky-flycatchers are not threatened although populations of the Phainopepla have declined where its habitat has been converted into agriculture.
The Phainopepla breeds twice per year in two different habitats; desert scrub and riparian woodlands. When breeding in desert scrub, pairs build nests on defended, separate territories. In riparian woodlands, though, this species becomes a colonial nester with several nests placed in the same tree.