- 1 species in montane New Guinea
- DR personal total: 1 species (100%), 0 photo'd
is an unusual passerine of montane rain-forests in New Guinea (left, a
photo by Hideo Tani). It has traditionally been aligned with whipbirds,
quail-thrushes, jewel-babblers (e.g., Sibley & Monroe 199), but
these have since been shown to be in different families. At one point
the Rail-babbler of southeast Asia was included in the melange, and the
family called Eupetidae. Handbook of the Birds of the World was published in that era (Boles 2007) and put Ifrita there. When Rail-babbler
proved to be an ancient offshoot in the Passeroidea — not remotely
related to the corvoid birds with which it had been associated — the
Ifrit seemed without a recognizable position.
This now all seems wrong. Norman et al. (2009) found Ifrita to be to in a clade containing two monarch genera, Monarcha and Myiagra.
Jønsson et al. (2011) sequenced DNA for a wide variety of
corvoid birds. They found that Blue-capped Ifrita was a very early
offshoot in the corvoid tree on the lineage that led to monarchs. Based
upon this finding, it could be included as the basal member of the
monarchs (family Monarchidae). However, its ancient lineage could also
support separate family status.
Christidis (2014) proposed full Family status for this unique species.
The proposal was supported by further molecular evidence, using 8
nuclear and 4 mitochondrial loci, in Jønsson et al. (2016), who
placed this family between monarchs and cuckoo-shrikes. With these new
publications, it seems likely that most world checklists will adopt the
Ifritidae as a single-species family.
is very unlike the birds with which it had earlier been aligned. It is
a chunky brownish bird with a bright blue crown, a relatively short
tail, and creeper-like habits; Coates (1990). It does not walk on the
ground or act like anything in the quail-thrushes, jewel-babbler,
whipbird, or rail-babbler families. Rather, Blue-capped Ifrita forages
nuthatch-like on trunks and branches, in mossy cloud forest, and ranges
from fallen logs or the upper canopy. It probes and digs in the moss
for prey, and can forage on the undersides of limbs. It feeds mostly on
insects, but small fruit is sometimes consumed. Its standard
vocalization is a sharp three-note call jit-jit-jit. Two songs have been described, including a loud exuberant musical song with "squeeze toy" elements (Beehler et al. 1986).
Photos: Hideo Tani photographed the Blue-capped Ifrita Ifrita kowaldi at Ambua Lodge, Tari, Papua New Guinea, in January 2003.
Credited photos © Hideo Tani, as credited, and used with permission; all rights reserved.
Bibliographic note: There is no "family book" on this new family, but a good
introduction to the genus, with photos, is in Boles
Beehler, B.M., T.K. Pratt, and D.A. Zimmerman. 1986. Bird of New Guinea. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J.
Boles, W.E. 2007. Family Eupetidae (Jewel-Babblers et al.), pp. 348 –373 in
Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D.A.
Christie, eds). Vol. 12. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Coates, B.J. 1990. The Birds of Papua New Guinea. Part II. Dove Publ., Ltd., Alderley, Australia.
E.C., ed. 2003. The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds
of the World. 3d ed. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J.
K.A., P-H. Fabre, R.E. Ricklefs, and J. Fjeldså. 2011. Major
global radiation of corvoid birds originated in the proto-Papuan
archipelago. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 108: 2328-2333.
K.A., P-H. Fabre, J.D. Kennedy, B.G. Holt, M.K. Borregaard, C. Rahbek,
and J. Fjeldså. 2016. A supermatrix phylogeny of corvoid
passerine birds (Aves: Corvides). Molec. Phylog. Evol. 94: 87-94.
J.A., P.G.P. Ericson, K.A. Jønsson, J. Fjeldså, and L.
Christidis. 2009. A multi-gene phylogeny reveals novel relationships
for aberrant genera of Australo-Papuan core Corvoidea and polyphyly of
the Pachycephalidae and Psophodidae (Aves: Passeriformes). Molec.
Phylog. Evol. 52: 488-497.
Schodde, R., and L.
Christidis. 2014. Relicts from Tertiary Australasia: undescribed
families and subfamilies of songbirds (Passeriformes) and their
zoogeographic signal. Zootaxa 3786: 501-522.
C.G., and J.E. Ahlquist. 1990. Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: a
Study of Molecular Evolution. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.