The highly insectivorous ioras are recognized as a form of natural pest control. The value of leafbirds as pollinators of flowering trees can certainly not be overlooked, though this may be balanced against their spreading the seeds of the parasitic oriental mistletoe from one tree to another.
Appreciation for the beauty of members of the genus Chloropsis is centuries old. Leafbirds have appeared in Chinese art as early as the fifteenth century. The London Zoo obtained an orange-bellied leafbird as early as 1879, and by its centennial, in 1927, had exhibited two other species. In the twentieth century, various leafbirds (traditionally called fruit-suckers) arrived in large commercial shipments to Europe and America. Prior to the Second World War, India was the major source, succeeded by Thailand in the 1950s and 1960s, then by Indonesia and the People's Republic of China in the 1990s. China imposed an export ban on cage birds in 2001, making, for the time being, Indonesia the only commercial source. Due to their pugnacious behavior, they had a justified reputation as being unsuited for small mixed aviaries, and were traditionally kept as pets in small cages.
With the increasing role of ecotourism in the international economy, the potential of fairy bluebirds, leafbirds, and ioras to attract visitors to wildlife areas makes them a valuable resource to preservationists.
1. Blue-winged leafbird, Sumatran subspecies (Chloropsis cochinchinensis icterocephalus); 2. Orange-bellied leafbird (Chloropsis hardwickii hard-wickii); 3. Blue-masked leafbird (Chloropsis venusta); 4. Common iora (Aegithina tiphia tiphia); 5. Green iora (Aegithina viridissima); 6. Philippine or yellow-quilled leafbird (Chloropsis flavipennis); 7. Golden-fronted leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons); 8. Lesser green leafbird (Chloropsis cyano-pogon); 9. Asian fairy-bluebird (Irena puella sikkimensis); 10. Philippine fairy bluebird (Irena cyanogaster). (Illustration by Amanda Humphrey)
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