Skip to main content


ID Info
Silhouette PhainopeplaPhainopepla
PhainopeplaPhainopepla nitens
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Ptiliogonatidae

Basic Description

A singular bird of the Southwest, the Phainopepla is a brilliant sight in flight. Males are silky black and slender, with an elegant crest and bold white wing patches that appear when the bird takes wing. Females are similar but a subdued gray. These glossy birds occur in desert washes, where they eat mainly mistletoe berries, and in oak and sycamore woodlands of California and Arizona. They often perch high in shrubs and catch insects on the wing.

More ID Info
image of range map for Phainopepla
Range map provided by Birds of the World
Explore Maps

Find This Bird

Phainopeplas are easiest to find in winter, when they can be numerous in desert washes with plenty of mistletoe growing on mesquite. Also look for them in California’s oak woodlands, particularly in the warmer months. They tend to perch high in shrubs or trees, watching for intruders or catching insects. Listen for their distinctive, rising wurp call and watch for the bright wing patches of flying birds.

Other Names

  • Capulinero Negro (Spanish)
  • Phénopèple luisant (French)
  • Cool Facts