a web page by Don Roberson
  • 1 species in southeast Asia
  • DR personal total: 1 species (100%), 0 photos

In the forests of the Malay Peninsula and the Greater Sundas is a unique, rather secretive and enigmatic jay-like bird that was traditionally called the "Crested Jay." It has always been in a monotypic genus [Platylophus] but its relationships have been uncertain (and remain so to some extent). About the size of a Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri on North America, it is a sleek black or dark rufous-brown bird with a much longer crest than any other jay, formed chiefly by two elongated central feathers, the tips of which are broader and 'nod' forward. Adults have a distinctive white crescent on the neck. Unlike corvids, it has a spotted and barred juvenal plumage and lacks obvious nasal tufts, but has long rectal bristles. Winkler et al. (2015) recently elevated it to Family status, and Clements/eBird has followed, now calling it Crested Shrikejay (left in a evocative photo by David Hollie). Yet, rather little is known about its exact relationships or even its basic biology.

Crested Jay is known to build an open-cup nest and the young are raised by both parents. It forages for a wide variety of invertebrates and although usually considered a resident species, some populations may be nomadic.

Winkler et al. (2015) states that males are black and females dark-brown, but that seems to be mistaken. Rather, according to HBW series (dos Anjos 2009) and other sources (Myers 2009), the color of adults is a function of geography, not sex. Adults of the nominate race (on Java) and race malaccensis (Malay Peninsula, shown here at left), are black or blackish. The remaining two subspecies on Borneo and Sumatra are a rich dark rufous-brown with black edging around the white neck crescent (photo below of race lemprieri).

Crested Shrikejay is widespread in both lowland and montane forests, and is both secretive and fearless. Since they feed "almost entirely inside foliage of bushy growth and in lower to middle canopy of trees," they are not often encountered at the edge or in the open. Yet, the are "fearless, and will approach humans to within a few meters while uttering shrieking calls, bobbing and weaving, and raising and lowering its crest;" dos Anjos (2009). My own experience on Mt. Kinabalu is similar. The family groups or small parties encountered were fast-moving and restless but surprisingly hard to spot (and I never got a photo). This adult Crested Jay (photo, right, by Marcel Hollyoak) was taken in lowland forest of north Borneo.

The species is now considered "near-threatened" globally due to the loss of forest from logging, particularly in the Greater Sundas.

In the HBW account (dos Anjos 2009), the Shrikejay (then called "Crested Jay") was thought to be "possibly a very primitive member of the Corvidae" but, then again, it "may not be a corvid at all." It is clearly among the "crown corvoids" that Sibley & Ahlquist (1990) had postulated to have arisen in Australia but are now thought to have evolved in proto-New Guinea (e.g., Jønsson et al. 2011, Aggerbeck 2014). Some (e.g., Jønsson et al. 2016) have thought it best placed in the shrike lineage [Laniidae], even suggesting a relationship to the two White-crowned Shrikes (Eurocephalus) of Africa, but that seems quite speculative. The evidence cited by Aggerbeck (2014) is that it was more closely related to shrikes than to corvids, but that it has been on a separate evolutionary line for about 20 million years. I agree with Winkler et al. (2015) that a divergence that long ago is best represented at the level of a bird Family among the oscine passerines. This is particularly true considered the unique morphology and jay-like behavior of this species.


Photos: David Hollie photographed the Crested Shrikejay Platylophus galericulatus at Kaeng Krachen NP, Thailand, on 24 Feb 2016. Marcel Hollyaork photographed his Crested Shrikejay along the Kinabatangan River in Borneo, Sabah, Malaysia, on 25 June 2009.

      Credited photos © David Hollie, and © Marcel Holloyoak, as credited, and used with permission; all rights reserved.

Bibliographic note: There is no "family book" per se but a fine introduction to the corvids, with some great photos, is in dos Anjos (2009).

Literature cited:

Aggerbeck, 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. Phylo. Evol. 70: 272-285.

dos Anjos, L. 2009. Family Corvidae (Corvids), pp. 494 –641 in Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D.A. Christie, eds). Vol. 14. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Jønsson, K.A., P.-H. Fabrea, 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.

Jønsson, 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). Mol. Phylo. Evol. 94: 87-94.

Myers, S. 2009. Birds of Borneo. Princeton Field Guides, Princeton, N.J.

Sibley, C.G., and J.E. Ahlquist. 1990. Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: a Study of Molecular Evolution. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.

Winkler, D.W., S.W. Billerman, and I.J. Lovette. 2015. Bird Families of the World: A Guide to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.




  page created 24 Dec 2018  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved