The phainopepla is in the family of the silky flycatcher. It is slender with a long tail and a crest. The male is glossy black and has white wing patches that are visible when it flies. The female is gray with light gray wing patches. Both males and females have red eyes, but they are more noticeably red in females.
|This male phainopepla was found near Carey's Castle in Joshua Tree NP.|
They are found from the San Joaquin Valley of Central California, southern Nevada and southern Utah, down through Baja, California. They are able to mimick the bird calls of at least 12 other species, including the red-tailed hawk and northern flicker, and are often one of the few sounds I hear in the deserts of Southern California and Arizona when I've been hiking.
|This female phainopeple was found in Estes Canyon in Organ Pipe Cactus NM in southern Arizona near the Mexico border.|
They love the fruit of the desert mistletoe and can eat more than 1,100 mistletoe berries in a day which is their primary source of water. They lose about 95% of their body mass in water each day. They are quite wary and difficult to get near.