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Breeding Birds: Phainopepla

December 29, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan David Greene / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times


(Phainopepla nitens)

Description: The male is shiny black; when in flight a white wing patch is very conspicuous. Both sexes have distinct crest, long tail and red eyes. Juvenile resembles adult female; both have gray wing patches.

Habitat: Desert scrub, semiarid and riparian woodland.

Diet: Especially mistletoe berries in deserts. The young are fed insects for two to three days, then also fruit.

Displays: In courtship, male rises 300 feet, circles or zigzags above territories. Chases and courtship feeding also


Nest: Compact, shallow construction of twigs, flowers, plant down, leaves. Bound with spider silk, lined with hair and/or down.

Eggs: Grayish, dotted with violet to black specks.

Natural history notes: Phainopepla is both the scientific and common name of our representative of the family of silky flycatchers. They nest in early spring in mesquite brushlands, then in late spring move into cooler, wetter habitat and raise a second brood. They rarely land on the ground. Their distinctive call note is a querulous, low-pitched, whistled wurp ? Song is a brief warble, seldom heard. Distinctive flight is fluttery but direct and often very high.

Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas (now in its fifth and final year), call Sea and Sage Audubon Society members Sylvia Gallagher, (714) 962-8990, or Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160.

Note: Map is divided into 5-kilometer squares so that Audubon Society volunteers can more easily survey areas on a regular basis.

Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

Indicates 5-kilometer-square areas where breeding activity has been confirmed.

DR, RUSS ARASMITH / Los Angeles Times

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