Can You Pronounce, Phainopepla?   7 comments

Phainopepla (fain – oh – PEP – lug) — Image by kenne

When I started the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalist program in September, one of my challenges was learning to pronounce, Phainopela.

Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)

Image by Lip Kee via Flickr

I didn’t have trouble recognizing this beautiful bird, who wouldn’t with his majestic black robe. His name is perfectly suited for its unique dark plumage, as the name phainopepla originated from the Greek phain peplos or “shining robe.” In bright sunlight, these birds do shine, and the male’s glossy plumage is unmistakable, as shown in the above image. The Phainopela has white wing-tips that can be seen in flight.

 In the summer, the local Phainopeplas migrate up the canyon to Mt. Lemmon, where it’s cooler with a lot in insects, returning to the lower canyon in the winter when insects are scarce to feed on mistletoe berries. As  “A Naturalist’s Guide To Sabino Canyon” point out, “Sticky mistletoe seeds pass through digestive system sticking to branches where they perch, spreading mistletoe from tree to tree.” Welcome back, “black dude!”


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