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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Phainopepla -- Phainopepla nitens

RANGE: Breeds from central California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, southern New Mexico, and western Texas south to Baja California and into Mexico. Winters from southern California, southern Nevada, central Arizona, southern New Mexico and western and southern Texas south into Mexico.

STATUS: Locally common to uncommon or rare.

HABITAT: In deserts, primarily inhabits washes, riparian areas, and other habitats that support a brushy growth of mesquite and paloverde. In more northern and coastal areas, inhabits oak chaparral and riparian oak woodlands.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Trees or shrubs and berries (especially mistletoe).

NEST: Builds nest (almost exclusively by the male) in a forked limb of a mesquite, cottonwood, hackberry, willow, sycamore, oak, or citrus tree, often in a clump of mistletoe, 4 to 50 feet above the ground.

FOOD: During the breeding season, captures many insects by hawking from high perches. During other periods, primarily eats fruits and berries (especially mistletoe berries).

REFERENCES: Phillips et al. 1964, Terres 1980, Terrill in Farrand 1983c, Verner and Boss 1980.

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