|Male Phainopepla. Palomar Mountain, California. July 13, 2014. Greg Gillson.|
"Phainopepla" means shining robe in Greek. Indeed, males are glossy black, females grayer. Plumage is loose and fluffy. They have crests and a large tail, as well as white wing patches. The eyes are red and bill small but wide. Their call is an easily imitated whistled "whit!" somewhat similar to the call of Swainson's Thrush.
They are desert birds. I think of them most often from my visits to Arizona back in the 1970's and 1980's. They are found especially in the Sonoran Desert in mesquite trees where they eat mistletoe berries and insects.
According to The Encyclopedia of North American Birds (Terres, 1980), Phainopeplas in southern California breed in the desert in March and April and then move to riparian chaparral of the coastal slope to breed again in June. We had one wintering locally at our home in San Marcos that I saw a few times last December and January.
|Female Phainopepla. Mission Trails Park, San Diego, California. April 20, 2014. Greg Gillson.|