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

Species Links
  • Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher Phainoptila melanoxantha

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher Phainoptila melanoxantha

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher Phainoptila melanoxantha

    Species Account
    The black-and-yellow phainoptila or black-and-yellow silky-flycatcher (Phainoptila melanoxantha) is a species of bird in the family Ptiliogonatidae. It is monotypic within the genus Phainoptila.[2] It is found in Costa Rica and Panama.
  • Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher Phainoptila melanoxantha

    Cornell Species Account
    The sole member of the genus Phainoptila is almost endemic to Costa Rica, although the Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher also ranges into western Panama.
  • Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher Phainoptila melanoxantha

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phainoptila melanoxantha Salvin, 1877, San Francisco, Costa Rica. Inclusion in present family questioned by some authors, who have pointed out this species’ similarity to members of Turdidae and dissimilarities between it and other ptilogonatids in morphology and habits; further research, including DNA analyses, required. Three subspecies recognized.
  • Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinerus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinerus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Ptiliogonys [sic] cinereus Swainson, 1827, Real del Monte, Hidalgo, Mexico. Generic name in original description spelt as “Ptiliogonys”, apparently in error by author, who had earlier described the genus by its current name (which he subsequently used) in what seems to have been an unpublished manuscript. This species may form a superspecies with P. caudatus. Four subspecies recognized.
  • Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinerus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinerus

    Species Account
    The grey silky-flycatcher or grey silky (Ptiliogonys cinereus), is a species of bird in the Ptiliogonatidae family. It is usually found only in Guatemala and Mexico, but vagrants have turned up in the southern United States. It is found in montane forest and adjacent scrub, both mesic and xeric.
  • Gray Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys cinerus

    Cornell Species Account
    The Gray Silky-flycatcher is almost endemic to Mexico, although it just ranges into western Guatemala.
  • Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys caudatus

    Cornell Species Account
    The Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptilogonys caudatus) is a blue-gray and yellow thrush-sized bird of high-elevations forests in Costa Rica and Panama.
  • Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys caudatus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys caudatus

    Species Account
    The long-tailed silky-flycatcher, (Ptiliogonys caudatus), is a passerine bird which occurs only in the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama, usually from 1,850 m altitude to the timberline. It is a thrush-sized species weighing about 37 g. The silky-flycatchers are related to waxwings, and like that group have soft silky plumage.
  • Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Ptilogonys caudatus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Ptilogonys caudatus Cabanis, 1861, Irazú, Costa Rica. May form a superspecies with P. cinereus. Monotypic.
  • Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

    Species Account
    On average, the Phainopepla reaches a length of 16 cm. Their bills are short and thin. They have have a dark crest with the males having an entirely black plumage, while the females have a grey plumage. During flight, white wing patches are visible. They have a very long tail and the juveniles look very similiar to that of the female…
  • Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

    HBW Species Account
  • Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

    Species Account
    The phainopepla or northern phainopepla[2] (Phainopepla nitens) 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.
  • Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens

    Cornell Species Account
    A crested songbird of the deserts and arid woodlands of the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Phainopepla is unique in taxonomy, distribution, and behavior
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 4

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