A Phainopepla is sometimes called a black cardinal--perhaps a cardinal's evil twin. It's easy to see why. The males are jet black with a white patch on the wing that is only visible when it flies, and they have eerie dark red eyes. The females are a medium gray color, but both males and females sport the crest that looks like a bad-hair day. Here in the Verde Valley, we generally only see the Phainopeplas during the hotter summer months when they migrate to our altitude to escape the heat of the desert. During the cooler months, they will wing back down to the lower elevations and inhabit desert scrub. They can often be seen doing aerial acrobatics as they pursue bugs for their dinner.
Melissa Bowersock is a photographer and multi-genre author with multiple novels and non-fiction titles to her credit. For more information, visit her web page at www.newmoonrising.net.