Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)


[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Ptilogonatidae | [latin] Phainopepla nitens | [UK] Phainopepla | [FR] Recollet noir | [DE] Trauer-Seidenschnapper | [ES] Capulinero Negro | [NL] Zwarte Zijdevliegenvanger


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Hypocolius nitens
Phainopepla nitens
Phainopepla nitens NA, MA sw USA to nc, nw Mexico
Phainopepla nitens lepida
Phainopepla nitens nitens

Physical charateristics

Male: A slim, glossy black bird with a slender crest. White wing patches are conspicuous in flight. Female: Dark gray
with a slender crest; wing patches light gray, not conspicuous.

Listen to the sound of Phainopepla


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 27 cm wingspan max.: 32 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 14 days incubation max.: 15 days
fledging min.: 18 days fledging max.: 21 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America, Middle America : Southwest USA to nc, Northwest Mexico. Phainopeplas breed in arid areas from the southwestern U.S., Baja California, and northwestern Mexico southward on the Mexican plateau to Guanajuato and Hidalgo. Wintering birds occur further south in Mexico


Desert scrub, mesquites, oak foothills, mistletoe clumps.
Occurs in many lowland and foothills habitats, moving around with availability of berries. Often in Sonoran desert areas and mesquite groves at various times of year; at some seasons, moves into chaparral, streamside trees, and oak woodlands.


Male displays over nesting territory by flying in high circles and zigzags. In courtship, male may chase female in flight; while perched, male may feed female.
Nest: Often well hidden in center of clump of mistletoe; sometimes in fork of branch. Nest height varies with habitat, typically low (4-
12′ above ground) in desert mesquites, higher (up to 50′) in streamside oaks or sycamores. Nest, built primarily by male, is
a rather small shallow cup of twigs, weeds, leaves, plant fibers, bound together with spider webs and lined with animal hair or plant down.
Eggs: 2-3, rarely 4. Grayish, heavily dotted with lavender and black. Incubation is by both parents, 14-16 days. Male noted to do most of incubation during daylight hours.
Young: Fed by both parents, receiving mostly crushed insects at first, then also berries. Young leave the nest about 19-20 days after hatching.

Feeding habits

Mostly berries and insects. Mistletoe berries are mainstays of diet when available. Also feeds heavily on berries of elder, buckthorn, a
nd sometimes juniper; in settled areas, eats many berries of pepper trees. Also eats many insects, especially in warmer weather, including beetles, flies, true bugs, and caterpillars.
Behavior: Feeds on berries mostly while perched; also hovers briefly to pluck berries or insects. Catches insects in midair by flying out from a perch and pursuing them in quick fluttery flight.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Phainopepla status Least Concern


Southwestern United States to south-central Mexico. Migration: Movements are complex and poorly understood. May nest in spring in the desert and then depart for other areas, possibly to nest again elsewhere.

Distribution map

Phainopepla distribution range map

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