Whitehead & allies
- 3 species in New Zealand
- DR personal total: 1 species (33%), 1 photo'd
Mohouidae are three species of small songbirds that are endemic to New
Zealand. Because they were merged for so many years in other families,
there is not any good name for the set. We'll use "mohouids." . Others
call them "mohouas" or "Whiteheads." The three species are Whitehead Mohoua albicilla on North Island with Yellowhead Mohoua ochrocephala and Pipipi Mohoua novaeseelandiae
on South Island. Pipipi is a local name now widely adopted by global
checklists. English-language field guides to New Zealand (e.g., Heather
& Robertson 1996) call it "Brown Creeper," an old term in New
Zealand but oblivious to the Brown Creeper Certhia americana
in North America. [Perhaps, as the two are on opposite sides of the
world, folks think it makes no difference.] Pipipi is smaller than the
other two in size, and often placed in the monotypic genus Finschia.
is the the more widespread mohouid on South Island (left, a photo by
Murray Lord) but its range has been reduced in recent decades. It
prefer large tracts of native southern beech (Nothofagus), especially those with open understory.
(right) is the only mohouid on North Island, where it occurs patchily
and locally in native forest, adjacent gardens, and sometimes
scrubland. It is about the size of Great Tit Parus major but the proportions are different, being longer-tailed and bigger-billed. They are usually are found in pairs.
have previously been included in many different families. Boles (2007)
mentions Paridae, Timaliidae, Orthonychidae, Campephagidae, Sylviidae,
Maluridae, Pardalotidae, and Acanthizidae. Sibley & Monroe (1990)
and Dickinson (2003) put them in the latter family, among Australasian
warblers. Boles (2007) included them in a very broad Whistler family
[Pachycephalidae]. Heather & Robertson (1996) also put them in
Norman et al. (2009) and Jønsson
et al. (2011) were the first genetic works to suggest the mohouids were
not closely related to any known family. Aggerbeck et al. (2014) found
strong support for the Mohouidae as the basal clade in the corvoid
assemblage, and all global checklists have now elevated them to Family
As a group, Heather & Robertson (1996)
describe the mohouids as "small, robust, forest and scrub birds that
have relatively large rounded heads and short stout bills for catching
insects amongst foliage and from crevices on branches and trunks. Most
species have loud and varied calls usually melodious but sometimes
harsh and scolding. In a vague sense to an American readers, this fits
perhaps the niche that vireos fill in forested North America.
Photos: Murray Lord photographed the Yellowhead Mohoua ochrocephala on South Island, New Zealand, on 24 Sep 2013. The Whitehead Mohoua albicilla was on Tiritiri Matangi Island, off North Island, New Zealand, on 13 Nov 2009.
Uncredited photos © Don Roberson. Credited photos © Murray Lord, as credited, and used with permission; all rights reserved.
There is no "family book" but the mohouids were covered within the
Whistler family, with a couple of nice photos, in Boles (2007).
M., J. Fjeldså, L. Christidis, P.-H. Fabre, K.A. Jønsson
(2014), Resolving deep lineage divergences in core corvoid passerine
birds supports a proto-Papuan island origin, Mol. Phylog. Evol. 70:
Dickinson, E., ed. 2003. The Howard &
Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3d ed. Princeton
Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J.
Heather, B., and H. Robertson. 1996. Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Penguin Books, Auckland, N.Z.
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.
P.-H. Fabrea, R.E. Ricklefs,, and J. Fjeldså (2011b), Major
global radiation of corvoid birds originated in the proto-Papuan
archipelago, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108, 2328-2333.
Boles, W.E. 2007. Family Pachycephalidae (Whistlers), pp. 374 –437 in
Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D.A.
Christie, eds). Vol. 12. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
C.G., and J.E. Ahlquist. 1990. Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: a
Study of Molecular Evolution. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.