Species accounts

Velvet asity

Philepitta castanea

SUBFAMILY

Philepittinae

TAXONOMY

Turdus castanea P.L.S. Muller, 1776, Madagascar. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Philépitte veloutée; German: Seidenjala; Spanish: Asitis de Terciopelo.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.5-6.5 in (14-16.5 cm); 1.1-1.3 oz (31.5-37 g). Breeding male: almost completely black with greenish caruncle over each eye and blue stripe between caruncle and eye. Female: olive-green with pale yellow blotches on underparts.

DISTRIBUTION

Eastern Madagascar.

HABITAT

Understory, lower levels of canopy, and occasionally in the canopy of primary rainforest, degraded or logged forest, and in secondary forest; from sea level up to 5,900 ft (1,800 m).

BEHAVIOR

Often forages in small groups or pairs, but sometimes alone. May also join mixed-species flocks.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Primarily frugivorous (e.g., Melastomataceae, Pittosporaceae, and Rubiaceae), but also feeds on nectar and insects.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Breeds July-January; northern birds breed earlier than southern birds. Pear-shaped nest, woven of moss and palm fibers and lined with leaves, is hung from a low branch in a shaded location. Usually lays three white eggs. Only the female has been observed to incubate, but both males and females have been recorded feeding young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened, and common in suitable habitat. However, loss of rainforest habitat in Madagascar may threaten its long-term persistence.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Common sunbird-asity

Neodrepanis coruscans

SUBFAMILY

Neodrepanidinae

TAXONOMY

Neodrepanis coruscans Sharpe, 1875, Madagascar.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Philepitte faux-souimanga caroncule German: Langschnabel-Nektarjala; Spanish: Asitis Caranculado.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

3.7-4.1 in (9.5-10.5 cm); 0.2-0.3 oz (6.2-6.6 g). Small bird with long, decurved bill. Male: blue-brown upperparts, dull yellow underparts with brown streaks on breast, blue caruncle around eye. Female: brown upperparts, light brown head, dull underparts with yellow on flanks and under tail.

DISTRIBUTION

Eastern Madagascar.

HABITAT

Understory, lower levels of canopy, and occasionally in the canopy of rainforest and in secondary forest from sea level up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

BEHAVIOR

Forage alone in or pairs, actively moving through the understory to visit flowers; sometimes feed in association with other nectarivorous birds, such as white-eyes and sun-birds.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Primarily nectarivorous; observed feeding at a variety of flowers including Balanophoraceae, Balsaminaceae, Loranthaceae, Rubiaceae, Clusiaceae, Melastomataceae, and Zingiberaceae. Also eats insects and spiders, often searching in moss or on branches for these invertebrates.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Poorly known. Breeds August-December. Pendulant nest of moss, leaves, and twigs is hung from a low branch. One nest contained two pale green eggs. Only female has been observed incubating and feeding young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened, and common in suitable habitat. However, loss of rainforest habitat may threaten its long-term survival.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

Resources

Books

Lambert, F., and M. Woodcock. Pittas, Broadbills and Asities. Sussex, UK: Pica Press, 1996.

Langrand, O. The Birds of Madagascar. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Periodicals

Irestedt, M., U. Johansson, T. Parsons, and P. Ericson. "Phylogeny of Major Lineages of Suboscines (Passeriformes) Analysed by Nuclear DNA Sequence data." Journal of Avian Biology 32 (2001): 15-25.

Prum, R. "Phylogeny, Biogeography, and Evolution of the Broadbills (Eurylaimidae) and Asities (Philepittidae) Based on Morphology." Auk 110 (1993): 304-324.

Prum, R., R. Torres, C. Kovach, S. Williamson, and S.

Goodman. "Coherent Light Scattering by Nanostructured Collagen Arrays in the Caruncles of the Malagasy Asities (Eurylaimidae: Aves)." Journal of Experimental Biology 202 (1999): 3507-3522.

Prum, R., and V. Razafindratsita. "Lek Behavior and Natural History of the Velvet Asity (Philepitta castanea: Eurylaimidae)." Wilson Bulletin 109 (1997): 371-392.

Nathaniel E. Seavy, MS

Class Aves Order Passeriformes Suborder Tyranni (Suboscines) Family Pittidae

Thumbnail description

Medium-sized with round bodies, large heads, and long legs; brightly colored; terrestrial; difficult to observe

Size

Number of genera, species

1 genus; approximately 30 species

Habitat

Understory of lowland tropical forests Conservation status

Critically Endangered: 1 species; Vulnerable: 8 species; Near Threatened: 4 species

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