BLUE-CAPPED IFRITA Ifrita kowaldi
- 1 species in montane New Guinea
- DR personal total: 1 species (100%), 0 photo'd
is an unusual passerine of montane 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 —
Clements world checklist split it but mistakenly tagged Ifrita along
(this error will be remedied in 2012). The IOC checklist currently
places it in "Family Incertae Sedis" [=family uncertain].
This now all seems wrong. Norman et al. (2009) found Ifrita to be to 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, it seems a bit too early to say
whether this is where it belongs. Its ancient lineage could also
support separate family status.
it is, Ifrita is very unlike the birds with which it has 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. Photo © Hideo Tani, used with permission; all rights reserved.
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., F. Pierre-Herni, 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.
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.
Sibley, C.G., and J.E.
Ahlquist. 1990. Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: a Study of
Molecular Evolution. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.