Apr 09 2011
This is a phainopepla (fay-no-PEP-la) and he doesn’t fit into any mold. His behavior is like several songbirds rolled into one.
He perches high and flicks his long tail like a phoebe but he also makes somersault flights and flashes the white in his wings like a mockingbird. Sometimes he even mimics other bird calls.
When he can, he eats flying insects but otherwise he feeds on the berries of desert mistletoe, a lifestyle quite similar to his closest relatives the waxwings.
He’s one-of-kind in his breeding habits too, choosing two different habitats based on time of year. From February to April he breeds in the desert, from May to July he moves to the forest and breeds in oak and sycamore canyons.
He’s always easy to find at Corn Creek, Nevada in April.
So where did he get his one-of-a-kind name?
Phainopepla is Greek for “shining robe.”
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original)