Black Desert Cardinal
In the desert southwest, Phainopeplas and mistletoe rely on each other. Phainopeplas feed heavily on berries of this parasitic plant; after the berries pass through the bird's digestive tract, the seeds often stick to branches of mesquite or other trees, where they can sprout new mistletoe clumps. Flocks of these slim and elegant birds may gather to feed on seasonally abundant crops such as elderberries. At other times, Phainopeplas are solitary, each bird defending a few small trees with several large clumps of mistletoe, and attempting to drive away any other fruit-eating birds that come close.
The phainopepla or northern phainopepla is the most northerly representative of the mainly tropical Central American family Ptiliogonatidae, the silky flycatchers. Its name is from the Greek ''phain pepla'' meaning "shining robe" in reference to the male's plumage.