Ptilogonatidae – Silky-flycatcher s

Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens ©Noel Reynolds Website

Ptiliogonatidae or silky-flycatchers are a small family of passerine birds with only four species in three genera. They were formerly lumped with waxwings and hypocolius in the family Bombycillidae. The family is named for their silky plumage and their aerial fly-catching techniques, although they are unrelated to the Old World flycatchers (Muscicapidae) and the tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae).

They occur mainly in Central America from Panama to Mexico, with one species, the Phainopepla, extending northwards into the southwestern US. Most do not engage in long-distance migration (instead wandering widely in search of fruit), but the Phainopepla is migratory over the northern part of its range.

They are related to waxwings, and like that group have soft silky plumage, usually grey or pale yellow. All species, with the exception of the Black-and-yellow Phainoptila, have small crests. They range in size from 18 to 25 cm in length and are mostly slender birds (with the exception again of the Black-and-yellow Phainoptila). All the species in this family are sexually dimorphic both in plumage colour and in having a longer tail. Juveniles of both sexes resemble females.

They birds eat fruit or insects. The Phainopepla is particularly dependent on desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum.

They are found in various types of woodland (semi-desert with trees for the Phainopepla), and they nest in trees.

The four species are:

Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher Phainoptila melanoxantha

Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinereus
Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys caudatus

Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 4

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