|Conservation status||Numbers vary from year to year, but overall population seems stable.|
|Habitat||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.|
Feeds on berries mostly while perched; also hovers briefly to pluck berries or insects. Catches insects in mid-air by flying out from a perch and pursuing them in quick fluttery flight.
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.
Fed by both parents, receiving mostly crushed insects at first, then also berries. Young leave the nest about 19-20 days after hatching.
Mostly berries and insects. Mistletoe berries are mainstays of diet when available. Also feeds heavily on berries of elder, buckthorn, and 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.
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 placed in center of clump of mistletoe, where it is very difficult to see; 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 spiderwebs and lined with animal hair or plant down.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Movements are complex and poorly understood. May nest in spring in the desert and then depart for other areas, possibly to nest again elsewhere.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsCommon calls include an up-slurred whistled hoooeet and a low quirk. The short warbled song is rarely heard.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Phainopepla
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Phainopepla
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.