Redbilled leiothrix

Leiothrix lutea

SUBFAMILY

Timaliinae

TAXONOMY

Sylvia lutea Scopoli, 1786, Anhui. Five subspecies generally recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Pekin robin, red-billed hill tit; French: Leiothrix jaune; German: Sonnenvogel.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

6 in (15.5 cm); 0.8 oz (22 g). Unmistakable combination of red bill, dark eyes with white ring, orange chest, yellow throat, olive back, orange and yellow wings, and uniquely forked tail.

DISTRIBUTION

The length of the Himalayas, Assam, western and northern Myanmar, southern China, northern Vietnam. Introduced in Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Kaua'i, though now possibly extinct on last island.

HABITAT

Undergrowth of secondary forests and bamboo stands, gardens.

BEHAVIOR

Found in groups, which, when perched, typically maintain close bodily contact with frequent mutual preening. In winter, moves to lower elevations.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Groups mostly forage near ground for insects, fruits, seeds, and flowers.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Apparent group courtship, followed by pairs separating off and setting up territories. Distinctive male territorial song. Both sexes build cup-shaped nest from a variety of plant materials and cocoon silk. Usual clutch three to four greenish white, variously speckled eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Massive exploitation for cage bird trade led to listing as CITES Appendix II in 1997. China banned commercial export of songbirds in 2001. Mysterious, brightly colored L. lutea astleyi may represent a population trapped to extinction.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Enormously popular cage bird. Implicated in spreading malaria to native Hawaiian birds. ♦

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