Art by Marilyn Stevens
The Phainopepla is found in dense desert scrub and along streams in the arid southwestern United States. Although they are one of four species of Silky-Flycatchers in the world, their diet consists of primarily berries. They do eat an occasional insect, but Desert Mistletoe berries make up most of their food and a single individual will eat over 1,000 mistletoe berries per day. They repay the parasitic mistletoe plant by spreading their seeds through mesquite and acacia trees. Because of their dependence on mistletoe, they are found only in the southwestern portion of Utah along the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers and the Beaver Dam Wash. This long-tailed, crested bird can be often be observed in the winter perched atop trees around Lytle Ranch. The males are glossy black and the females are light gray; both sexes have red eyes and flash white wing patches in flight. Their name ‘Phainopepla’ comes from the Greek word for ‘shining robe’.