CINNAMON IBON Hypocryptadiidae
- 1 species in the Philippines
- DR personal total: 1 species (100%), 1 photo'd
another shocker. Genetic analysis has revealed that the Donacobius of
the Amazon Basin is a relict Old World grassbird; that the Olive
Warbler of the American southwest is a relict accentor; and that the
"Olive-flanked Whistler" of Sulawesi is a relict bombycillid. Now, an
odd "white-eye" in the mountains of the Philippines proves to be a
relict sparrow. Cinnamon Ibon (left), an enigmatic
bird of the cloud forest canopy on Mindanao, turns out to be evolved
from the Old World passerids; Fjeldså et al. (2010). Yet its
geographic location is so far distant from an other member of the
Passeridae that it "is difficult to explain without assuming an
over-water dispersal event" many eons ago; Fjeldså et al. (2010).
used to be called the "Cinnamon White-eye" has long been a mysterious
avian. When I first visited the Philippines in 1990 on a tour with Ben
King, he had already reached the conclusion this bird was not a
white-eye. He coined the name "Ibon" for his genus (Hypocryptadius), and for another genus (Lophozosterops),
that he felt were not white-eyes. The word "Ibon," he said, meant
"little bird" in a local language. [Later research showed the six Lophozosterops to be white-eyes; only Hypocryptadius has retained the name Ibon.]
The Handbook of the Birds of the World
(van Balen 2008) designated Hypocryptadius as a monotypic subfamily
among the White-eyes [Zosteropidae] but noted that the "Cinnamon Ibon
is taxonomic oddity whose placement in the Zosteropidae is often
questioned, but without convincing alternatives being offered. ... [it
is] distinct from the rest of the Zosteropidae, being the only
white-eye to lack a deeply bifurcate tongue and the only one to have
deep cinnamon plumage. Whereas it is considerably larger than even the
second largest white-eye, is has, in contrast, the shortest tarsus. In
addition, compared to other zosteropids, its nostril structure is
different; it has a far wider and deeper bill; and it lacks an
eye-ring." The concluded that "little or nothing is known about its
vocalizations and nidification which could provide some clues to its
relationships. In the meantime, it is probably best to place it in an
old subfamily Hypocrytadiinae, of which it is the sole member, although
it may merit placement in a separate family altogether."
et al. (2010) have now shown that it evolved from the evolutionary line
that led to today's Passeridae [Old World Sparrows]. They, too,
proposed that it "should be retained in a distinct, monotypic
subfamily, Hypocrytadiinae." Yet their evidence showed that, "based on
our calibration points the Passeridae emerged around 35 Mya [million
years ago] and the Cinnamon Ibon diverged from the typical sparrows c. 31 Mya. The radiation of the typical sparrows [Passer, Petronia and Montifringilla occurred later, around 25 Mya."
means that Cinnamon Ibon has been on its own evolutionary path for ~31
million years. Such a divergence time is more similar to clades that we
consider Families, rather than Subfamilies. As just one example, the
"basal divergences among Old World warblers range from 32.3 Myr between
the Spenoeacus clade and remaining warblers to 31.3 Myr between megalurine and other warblers;" Beresford et al. (2005). The Spenoeacus clade mentioned is now widely considered a separate family, the Macrosphenidae [African warblers & crombecs], and the rest of the Old World warblers have been formally broken up into separate families, including the Megaluridae [grassbirds].
If these evolutionary clades are considered Families, having split off
from their nearest relatives ~31 to 32 million years ago, it seems
logical to me that Hypocryptadius should be treated
similarly. This is especially true since it is geographically so far
removed from the nearest member of the Passeridae. So, tentatively, I
consider the Cinnamon Ibon to be a member of a monotypic family, the
Cinnamon Ibon is a canopy species in mixed foraging flocks, often with
Black-masked and Mountain White-eyes, Black-and-cinnamon Fantails,
Elegant Tits, and Mountain Leaf-Warbler (Kennedy et al. 2000). A
typical view of the bird is looking upward into the canopy (left),
although it forages are all forest levels. Kennedy et al. (2000) says
that it actively gleans for insects (which is surely true) but in the
shot above it appears to be eating small fruits also. Fjeldså et
al. (2010) says that its call notes resemble a sparrow; Kennedy et al.
(2000) describe them as a "soft, almost whiny whistle." Apparently its
nests and eggs are unknown, which means "undescribed in the
literature." It is possible that local villagers or visiting birders
have unpublished information. Fortunately, it is generally a common
species about 1000m elevation in the mountains of southern Mindanao.
I've seen several on both trips to Mt. Katanglad, while searching for
Photos: The Cinnamon Ibon Hypocryptadius cinnamomeus on Mt. Katanglad, Mindanao, Philippines, on 23 Dec 2005. Photos © Don Roberson; all rights reserved.
Obviously there is no "family book" on this newly studied bird. It is
covered with White-eyes in the HBW series (van Balen 2008) with just a
single photo, plus a painting.
Beresford, P., F.K. Barker, P.G. Ryan, and
T.M. Crowe. 2005. African endemics span the tree of songbirds
(Passeri): molecular systematics of several evolutionary 'enigmas'.
Proc. R. Soc. B 272: 849-858.
Fjeldså, J., M. Irestedt, P.G.P. Ericson, and D. Zuccon. 2010. The Cinnamon Ibon Hypocryptadius cinnamomeus is a forest canopy sparrow. Ibis doi: 1111/j.1474-919X.2010.01053.x
R.S., P.C. Gonzales, E.C. Dickinson, H.C. Miranda, and T.H. Fisher.
2000. A Guide of the Birds of the Philippines. Oxford Univ. Press, New
van Balen, S. 2008. Family Zosteropidae
(White-eyes), pp. 402–485 in Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol.
13 (del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D.A. Christie, eds). Lynx Edicions,