Tuesday, December 1, 2020


I have seen three phainopeplas in the last couple of days near our home. One, a female, was in a tree in our back yard on Thursday morning. One, a silky black male, was in an oak tree in Live Oak Canyon on Saturday afternoon. The last, I believe a female, was also in a tree in our back yard. I was surprised because I associate them with the desert, particularly Corn Springs where I have seen them a number of times. In fact, I saw one earlier this year but was unable to get a good photo of it. 
Males are slender and "silky black," with white wing patches in flight, a long tail, an upright posture when it perches, red eyes and a short and slender black bill. Females are similar, but are a "subdued gray" and the red eyes stand out more. The name comes from a Greek word for "shining robe," obviously from the male's silky black. They specialize in eating mistletoe berries and may eat as many as 1,100 berries in a day (a berry spends only about 12 minutes in the intestine). It gets its water from the berries and rarely drinks water. It also eats insects, fruits and vegetables. 

It is found in hot areas, including the deserts of Arizona, southern Nevada, southern California and down into Baja California, Mexico.  However, at various times during the year they move into chaparral, streamside trees and oak groves, which is what I am seeing now. 

I have found them to be difficult to photograph in the past because they are wary and move so fast, but the male in an oak tree in Live Oak Canyon stayed in his tree for awhile, although he did flit around, and I had a long lens that allowed me to get a good look at him. 

I got a photo of the second female in our backyard, above.

1 comment:

  1. Great name. There is something kind of eerie about these birds. They have an undertaker look.