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Australasian Figbird - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: Australian Figbird, Yellow Figbird (race flaviventris), Southern or Green Figbird (race vieilloti; see taxonomy)

Male
Photo © by firecrest
East Point Darwin NT Australia, October, 2017
Sphecotheres vieilloti

Identification

25-29cm (9¾-11½ in).
Two Australian races: males differ, females similar.
Race flaviventris "Yellow Figbird" (tropical north Australia): male: bright yellow throat/breast; white underparts.
Race vieilloti "green figbird" (coastal east Australia); male: throat/upperbreast/collar mid-grey; flanks green; underparts white.
Female: bill dark brown; upperparts dull brown with bare grey-brown skin around eye; underparts whitish, heavily streaked dark brown, so heavily on throat as to apear dark brown.
Immature: pale scallops on wing feathers; young males show shadowy adult markings.

Susbspecies flaviventris
Photo © by xodarap
Marlows Lagoon, Northern Territory, Australia, June 2005

Similar Species

Males are easily recognized, but the streaky females and immatures can be confused with the Olive-backed Oriole, Brown Oriole, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and juvenile Metallic Starling.

Distribution

Northern and eastern Australia, south-eastern New Guinea and the Kai Islands (Indonesia).

See also taxomomy.

Taxonomy

There are conflicting taxonomic treatments for the figbirds. Previously, Sphecotheres vieilloti and S. viridis were treated as a single widespread species, the Figbird (Sphecotheres viridis). Some Australian field guides continue to consider the two a single species, but following Schodde & Mason (1999), which largely follow White & Bruce (1986) and Andrew (1992), most current Australian authorities accept the split.

Photo © by Ken Doy
Wellington Point, Queensland, Australia December 2015

Among the sources that treat these as separate species, there is not an agreement on which subspecies belong to which species; specifically in regards of flaviventris. The problem relates to the background used for the split. The first possibility, as recommended by most authorities, including the earlier mentioned sources and Howard & Moore, mainly rely on size, zoo-geography and hybridization. Following this taxonomy, S. vieilloti includes nominate (S. v. vieilloti; eastern Australia, southern New Guinea and Kai Islands), ashbyi (northern Australia) and flaviventris (northern Australia), while S. viridis, based on its small size, its green throat and chest, and its isolated distribution, is considered a monotypic species restricted to the eastern Lesser Sundas.

On the contrary, Clements base the split on morphology, specifically the colour of the throat and chest in the male. Male flaviventris has a yellow throat and chest rather similar to the green throat and chest of male viridis, but unlike the grey throat and chest of males vieilloti and ashbyi. Hence, following this treatment, flaviventris is considered a subspecies of S. viridis (i.e. S. viridis flaviventris) rather than a subspecies of S. vieilloti (i.e. S. vieilloti flaviventris). This, however, is questionable, as flaviventris interbreeds widely with vieilloti where their ranges meet in Australia (photo of a presumed hybrid male), suggesting that flaviventris is best considered a subspecies of S. vieilloti.

An additional problem relates to the subspecies recognized. In addition to the four previously named taxa (viridis, flaviventris, vieilloti and ashbyi), Howard and Moore recognized cucullatus from the Kai Islands and salvadorii from south-eastern New Guinea. Clements do not recognize these two as distinct subspecies, and instead include the population from south-eastern New Guinea in vieilloti and the populations the Kai Islands in flaviventris.

Habitat

Diverse: rainforest edges, swamps, forests, woodlands; suburban and urban parks and gardens

Behaviour

Diet

The diet includes figs, cherries, ink weed and tobacco bush, bananas, guavas, and mulberries.

Breeding

It builds a flimsy, and saucer-shaped nest from plant fibre and tendrils. Three eggs are laid and are incubated by both parents; additional birds may help feed the young.

Gallery

Click on photo for larger image

References

  1. Andrew (1992). The Birds of Indonesia A Check-list. Kukila Check-list No. 1. Indonesian Orn. Soc. Jakarta.
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2015. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2015, with updates to August 2015. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  3. Dickinson, EC, ed. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3rd ed., with updates to October 2008 (Corrigenda 8). Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691117010
  4. Schodde & Mason (1999). Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0643064567
  5. White & Bruce (1986). The Birds of Wallacea (Sulawesi, the Moluccas & Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia). BOU Check-list Ser. 7: 1-524. London.
  6. BF Member Observations

Recommended Citation

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