Birds of the World



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Passeriformes - Old World Suboscines
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Suboscines, Old World Suboscines
Families: Broadbills, Asites, Sapoyoas, Pittas
  Order Passeriformes - Perching Birds
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  Most passerines are smaller and less massive than members of non-passerine orders. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young are altricial - they hatch blind with little or no down - and nidicolous - spending 10-15 days or so in the nest. Subsequent development is rapid and young approach adult mass at fledging. Parents provide care beyond fledging.
Passerines may be divided into Suboscines and Oscines (Song Birds) based upon characteristics of their syrinx with suboscines generally being regarded as having less specialized syringes. The Suboscines, however, are a polyphyletic grouping of more ancient and relict groups of the early radiations of passerines. The endemic New Zealand Wrens appear to be a basal group and a sister group to all other passerines so we have placed it first among the passerines. The other suboscines may be grouped together in the Suborder Tyranni but I prefer to separate them into two suborders: the Suborder Eurylaimidi or Old World (Broad-billed) Suboscines and the Tyranni, the New World Suboscines and the most diverse of the Suboscine lines.
  Suborder Eurylaimidi - Old World (Broad-billed ) Suboscines
  49 species placed in 11 genera (Sibley and Monroe, 1990).
   In the Old World suboscines, the stapes (one of the bones of the internal ear) is expanded.
  Superfamily Eurylaimoidea - Broadbills and Allies
  Family Eurylaimidea - Broadbills 
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  14 (15-14) species, 8 (9) genera. Tropics of southeast Asia and the Philippines to Sumatra, Java and Borneo. Several species occur in Africa. They are found in canopies and wet forests.
   There are four subfamilies:
      Subfamily Smithornithinae - Typical African Broadbills (Smithornis, 3 species)
      Subfamily Pseudocalyptomeninae - African Green Broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri)
      Subfamily Calyptomeninae - Asian Green Broadbills (Calyptomena, 3 species)
      Subfamily Eurylaiminae - Typical Asian Broadbills ( Eurylaimus, etc. (8 species, 5 genera)
(The Broad-billed Sapayoa, Sapayoa aenigma, may form a fifth subfamily if it is not given family status -  below).

   Small to medium-sized birds. The typical broadbill has a broad head with big eyes, a broad, flat hooked bill with a wide gape. Their plumages are brightly colored - some are sexually dichromatic. The tendons of the flexor hallucis is connected by a vinculum to the tendon of the flexor profundus (Type 1) and toes 3 and 4 are joined basally. The podotheca has scutes anteriorly and small hexagonal scales posteriorly. They have 11 primaries, 12 rectrices and 15 cervical vertebrae. At least one genus has two carotids and the main leg artery is the ischiatic.
   They are active early and late - some are almost crepuscular. Most are solitary but some species are more gregarious and may form mixed-species feeding flocks. They are found in evergreen and deciduous tropical forests (the African Broadbill, Smithornis capensis, lives in savanna woodland; the Black-and-red Broadbill, Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos, prefers riparian forests. They often perch quietly for long periods between sallies to catch an insect before returning to the same spot. They feed primarily on insects (flycatcher style) and smaller vertebrates. Others forage actively in foliage. They will also eat fruit and they may gather near trees with ripe fruit.
   All have alarm and contact calls but they are often silent. Some produce mechanical sounds during flight. Asian species may be more vocal, sounding like frogs with a variety of whistles and squaks.
   Most species are monogamous but lekking behavior in two suggests polygyny. Some have elaborate courtship displays. Nests are usually well hidden. Their nest are woven and pendant or pear-shaped with a side opening, suspended over ground or water. Bothe sexes participate in its construction. They lay up to 6 variously colored and marked eggs but smaller clutches (2-3) are common. They may have more than one clutch in a year. Incubation lasts 17-28 days. Young fledge at 22-23 days. There are nest helpers in three species (probably previous young). Parents continue to provide the majority of food for fledglings for at least 2 months.
   The green broadbills, Calyptomena (Wiki), have a smaller bill, partly covered by a tuft of loral plumes. They have 10 primaries and their plumages are mostly green. They are mainly frugivorous and prefer to eat figs (Ficus species).
  Family Philepittidae - Asites, Sunbird-Asites
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  4 species, 2 genera (Philepitta - 2 species of asity, Neodrepanis - 2 species of sunbird-asity). Madagascar endemics.
   These are small, quiet, forest dwellers that feed on fruit and nectar of understory plants (sunbird-asites feed their young insects, however). Neodrepanis have a long, decurved bill with a tubular tongue and feed on nectar. Males are slightly larger. Philepitta have a short, slightly slightly decurved bill. Their tongues are forked for nectar feeding. They are strongly dichromatic - males have colored wattles around the eyes getting their color from collagen fibers - a unique color source for animals.
   Their outer primary makes sound in flight. Their songs are squeaky and relatively quiet. Philepittids have 12 rectrices. Their tarsus is covered with rectangular scutes. Their syrinx is encircled by a heavy bronchial ring.
   One species lives in seasonal rain forest in western Madagascar - other species live in rain forest, usually at higher altitudes (ranging from lowlands to montane forest). They are usually solitary feeders, seldom flying far if disturbed. They sometimes forage in the canopy and may join mixed species feeding flocks.  They eat small fruits, usually gleaned from understory plants or taken when hovering. Sunbird-asites are nectar feeders and are more active and are may be aggressive to other birds.
   The Velvet Asity is polygynous - males display on a territory. The female builds a pendant, pear-shaped nest with a side entrance and an overhanging porch. There is little information about these birds.
  Family Sapayoaidae - Sapayoas
   (Infraorder/Family Incertae sedis)
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  1 species, 1 genus (Sapayoa aenigma). A family of uncertain status according to Sibley and Ahlquist (1990). Clements (2007) includes it as a family placed between Asites and Pittas. Dickinson (2003) and Harris (2009) also recognize it as a family. It has been suggested that the Sapayoa was an early branch in the line of broadbills and pittas of the Old World tropics that survives in the New World, having reached South America via Antarctica (this school includes the sapayoa in a subfamily of the broadbills). Thus its affinities are with the Old World groups (above) but it is found in the New World (below)...
   The Broad-billed Sapayoa is a small bird, found in the understory of lowland rain forests of Panama and north-western South America. It is a greenish bird with a yellowish throat with no other markings (adult males have a yellow coronal patch that is usually hidden). It has a flat, wide bill.
   Sapayoas are generally solitary and forage in ravines and along small springs, often seen in pairs or mixed species flocks. It perches, then sallies to catch insects or pick fruit. It may join a mixed species feeding group of flycatchers or antwrens.  Its major dietary item are insects but it also eats fruit.
   Little is known about breeding.
  Superfamily Pittoidea - Pittas
  Family Pittidae - Pittas
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  31 (32-30) species, 1 genus (Pitta). Southeast Asia, India, southern China, southern Japan, the Philippines, the Solomons, New Guinea, and Australia. One occurs in tropical Africa.
   Pittas are medium-sized, stocky, thrush-like ground-dwellers with really short tails. They are  usually found in thick tropical forest or scrubland. Pittas tend to be solitary. They hop on the forest floor, turning leaves with their bill like a thrush. They are diurnal but are most active in the cooler parts of the day. They may stand motionless on one leg during the hottest part of the day. They are shy and are more likely to hop than fly if disturbed. They have long tarsi and stout legs, short tails (they may appear almost tailless), and stout, relatively short  bills. They have large eyes and a well developed sense of smell.
   Their plumage is varied and colorful and males may be slightly larger than females. Their podotheca is entire in the front and smooth. Temporal fossae (cavities in the temporal bones) extend across the occipital region nearly meeting in the midline. The syrinx is bronchial and lacks intrinsic muscles.
   Pittas eat small invertebrates (especially earthworms) and other small animals (snails, ants, beetles, centipedes and spiders plus a few small vertebrates). They live in moist tropical forest - lowland to upland and montane forest. A few may occur in cut forests and scrub, mangroves, marshes, and grasslands. Some like bamboo thickets.
   They are vocal when alarmed and in the early and late parts of the day (and moonlit nights).
   Most species are sedentary - only 4 species migrate seasonally.
   Pittas are monogamous and strongly territorial. A few species have elaborate displays. Both parents build a large, loose, oven-shaped nest with a side entrance, on or near the ground. They lay 4-5 (2-6) white eggs with colored markings. Incubation lasts 14-18 days and is shared by both parents. Young fledge in 15-17 days. There is a relatively short period of post-fledging dependency.