Saturday, April 15, 2017


The glossy black desert bird with a commanding treetop presence and a taste for mistletoe berries is the Phainopepla.

Gleaming black from tip to tail this medium sized songbird doesn't retreat.

Instead he proudly sings his varied song, sometimes including the songs of other birds.

(pronounced: fay-no-PEP-la)

His pretty partner is also a stand-out. She's feathered in subtle shades of brown trimmed with white.

They both have bright red eyes and a crest.

In flight, Phainopeplas show still another dimension. Hidden at rest, but brilliant in the air, white wingtips flash with every beat.

Yet the Phainopepla is not only about show. They can have two broods of young per year if conditions are right. That demands a great deal of teamwork from this pair.

Even if their nests aren't elaborate, raising two broods a year requires substantial food gathering.

Here a female is returning to her well hidden nest with an insect.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

The male waits nearby with his food offering.

While glancing right... to check my intentions, she flashes her wings repeatedly to frighten an insect into revealing itself.

The Phainopepla is well suited for the hot dry desert. Phainopeplas rarely drinks water. Mistletoe berries provide their moisture requirement.

Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds