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      Whatbird Forums Rules   01/08/17

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lcress

Phainopepla description

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I'm confused as to why every web site I can find (including this one) describe the Phainopepla as having "glossy black" plumage when the illustration and the birds I've seen in my yard (in Southern California) are very clearly a dark blue, not black. I've seen several photos of these birds online that also appear dark blue - so I'm puzzled as to why is this important aspect of its appearance not mentioned in the descriptions. Thanks for your thoughts!

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I think you might have answered your own question!  You noted that "glossy black" is the common descriptor for male Phainopeplas.  "Glossy" birds often appear black, but the iridescence of the feathers can make them appear any number of colors, in this case, male Phainopeplas often appear blue.  Iridescence might be a bit of a strong term for a Phainopepla, but think about how male scaup have heads that often appear black, but if they catch the light just right they can be green or purple. It's the same general concept. 

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