The asities are a group of birds in the family Eurylaimidae, members of the broadbills. The asities consist of four species in two genera endemic to Madagascar. The Neodrepanis species are known as sunbird-asities and were formerly known as false sunbirds.[1]

Philepitta is now the type-genus of a new bird family, the Philepittidae, into which the Asities of Madagascar have been placed.[2]

Yellow bellied Asity12
Yellow-bellied sunbird-asity,
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Eurylaimoidea
Family: Eurylaimidae


Taxonomy and systematics

They were thought to have been related to the pittas, hence the scientific name of the family, but a 1993 study suggested that they are actually just a subfamily of broadbills.[3] The morphology of the syrinx is very similar to the Grauer's broadbill of Africa. Here they are considered traditionally as a separate family. Some authors have placed the Sapayoa of South America in the family, although it is now considered by many to be in its own family, the Sapayoidae.


Asities are small forest birds with sexually dichromic plumage and brightly coloured wattles around the eyes of the males. These wattles, which are most conspicuous during the breeding season, get their colour from arrays of collagen fibres.[4] This method of pigmentation is unique in the animal kingdom. Several other features separate them from the broadbills, they possess twelve tail feathers on extremely short (almost non-existent in the Philepitta species) tails, their syrinx is encased with a large bronchial ring and they have forked tongues adapted to nectivory.[5] They have a long outer primary which buzzes in flight, possibly used in signalling during courtship. The two genera are quite distinct.

Behavior and ecology

Diet and feeding

The major component of the diet of asities is fruit. A wide range of different fruit is taken by the family, and they are among the most important avian dispersers of seeds, as there are very few other frugivorous birds in the forests of Madagascar. They will also take insects. The Neodrepanis sunbird-asities will take nectar, but do so with a long tongue rather than inserting their curved bills far into flowers.


Rainforest asities breed during the Malagasy rainy season, beginning just before the rains in September to November.[5] The velvet asity begins breeding slightly sooner in the north of its range. That species is the only one for which detailed information about breeding is available. It has a polygynous breeding system, with males holding small territories or leks where they display to passing females. Nest building and raising the young is incubation solely by the females. There are reports of yellow-bellied sunbird-asities feeding young in the nest and recently fledged chicks, so there is clearly some variation in breeding strategies in the family. The nests of the family are elaborate; pear-shaped woven structures hanging from branches, similar to those of broadbills, although uniquely amongst birds which weave nests the entrance to the nest is pushed created by pushing through the wall after constructed (instead of the usual scenario where the entrance is weaved into the fabric of the nest).

Status and conservation

One species, the yellow-bellied sunbird-asity, is listed as vulnerable by BirdLife International and the IUCN.[6] It was once considered to be an endangered species, and even possibly extinct; however this was due to a lack of ornithological surveys in its high-altitude range. Subsequent research has found it to be more abundant than previously suspected, although it is still considered threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Schlegel's asity is considered near threatened; it has a highly fragmented distribution but numerous strongholds in inaccessible ravines.[7]


Image Genus Living Species
Schlegel's asity (Philepitta schlegeli) Philepitta
Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity (Neodrepanis hypoxantha), Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar Neodrepanis


  1. ^ del Hoyo, J. Elliott, A. & Christie, D. (editors). (2003) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 8: Broadbills to Tapaculos. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-50-4
  2. ^ Winkler, D.W; Billerman, S.M.; Lovette, I.J (2015). Bird Families of the World. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. p. 275–276. ISBN 978-84-941892-0-3.
  3. ^ Prum, R. 0. (1993). "Phylogeny, biogeography, and evolution of the broadbills (Eurylaimidae) and asities (Philepittidae) based on morphology" (PDF). Auk. 110 (2): 304–324. JSTOR 4088558.
  4. ^ Prum, R. O.; Morrison, R. L. & Ten Eyck, G. R. (1994). "Structural color production by constructive reflection from ordered collagen arrays in a bird (Philepitta castanea: Eurylaimidae)". Journal of Morphology. 222 (1): 61–72. doi:10.1002/jmor.1052220107. PMID 29865414.
  5. ^ a b Hawkins, F. (2003) Family Philepittidae (Asities) pp. 94-105 in del Hoyo J., Elliott A. & Christie D.A. (2003) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 8. Broadbills to Tapaculos Lynx Edicions, Barcelona ISBN 84-87334-50-4
  6. ^ BirdLife International (2007) ["BirdLife | Partnership for nature and people". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-11-15./datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=4042&m=0 Species factsheet: Neodrepanis hypoxantha]. Downloaded from "BirdLife | Partnership for nature and people". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-11-15. on 16/6/2007
  7. ^ BirdLife International (2007) ["BirdLife | Partnership for nature and people". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-11-15./datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=4040&m=0 Species factsheet: Philepitta schlegeli]. Downloaded from "BirdLife | Partnership for nature and people". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-11-15. on 16/6/2007

External links

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Alphonse Milne-Edwards Recherches anatomiques et paléontologiques pour servir à l'histoire des oiseaux fossiles de la France.1867-71 Online at Gallica Bibliothèque nationale de France

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The broadbills are a clade of small passerine birds, Eurylaimidae (named after the type genus Eurylaimus). The Smithornis and Pseudocalyptomena species occur in sub-Saharan Africa; the rest extend from the eastern Himalayas to Indonesia and the Philippines.

The family possibly also includes the sapayoa from the Neotropics and the asities from Madagascar, although many taxonomists now separate each of the three into distinct families.

Common sunbird-asity

The common sunbird-asity or sunbird asity (Neodrepanis coruscans) is a species of bird in the Eurylaimidae family. It is endemic to Madagascar.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

Endemic birds of Madagascar and western Indian Ocean islands

This article is one of a series providing information about endemism among birds in the world's various zoogeographic zones. For an overview of this subject see Endemism in birds.

Kasijy Reserve

Kasijy Special Reserve is a 19,800 hectares (49,000 acres) wildlife reserve in the Betsiboka region of Madagascar. Nearly half of the species of plants and animals recorded within the reserve are endemic to Madagascar and BirdLife International have listed the reserve as an Important Bird Area.


Leucocytozoon (or Leukocytozoon) is a genus of parasitic alveolates belonging to the phylum Apicomplexa.

The species of this genus use blackflies (Simulium species) as their definitive host and birds as their intermediate host. There are over 100 species in this genus. Over 100 species of birds have been recorded as hosts to these parasites.

List of Passeriformes by population

This is a list of Passeriforme species by global population. While numbers are estimates, they have been made by the experts in their fields.

Passeriformes is the taxonomic order to which the perching birds belong.

List of birds by common name

In this list of birds by common name, a total of 9,722 extant and recently extinct bird species are recognised, belonging to a total of 204 families.

List of birds of Madagascar

Madagascar is an island nation located off the southeastern coast of Africa. Because of its long separation from neighboring continents—through tectonic movement, it split from Africa about 160 million years ago, and from India around 90 million years ago—it contains many species endemic to the island. Of the 287 bird species recorded on Madagascar, 105 are found nowhere else on earth, and a handful of others are shared only with the neighbouring Comoro Islands; one has been declared extinct.This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) follows the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition.Species status comments are taken from Morris and Hawkins's Birds of Madagascar: A Photographic Guide unless otherwise noted. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts. The IUCN Red List codes are those given by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; they come from the IUCN's Red List website.

Maningoza Reserve

Maningoza Special Reserve is a 9,826 hectares (24,280 acres) wildlife reserve in Madagascar. It was created in 1956 to protect the many endemic plants and animals, and it also contains some of the last remaining areas of dry deciduous forest on the island.


Neodrepanis is a bird genus in the family Eurylaimidae.


Philepitta is a genus of bird in the Eurylaimidae family. Established by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1838, the genus contains the following species:

The genus name Philepitta is a combination of the French name philédon, for the friarbirds of the Meliphagidae family and pitta, for the birds of the genus "pitta".Philepitta is now the type-genus of a new bird family, the Philepittidae, into which the Asites of Madagascar have been placed.


The sapayoa or broad-billed sapayoa (Sapayoa aenigma) is a suboscine passerine found in lowland rainforests in Panama and north-western South America. As the epithet aenigma ("the enigma") implies, its relationships have long been elusive. It is easy to overlook, but appears to be common in a wide range and is not considered threatened by the IUCN.

Schlegel's asity

Schlegel's asity (Philepitta schlegeli) is a species of bird in the family Eurylaimidae.

It is endemic to Madagascar.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forest and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 10

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.


Tsitongambarika is a lowland forest in southern Madagascar. The area supports many rare species of amphibians, birds, lemurs and reptiles; many of which are endemic. In 2001 the site was designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International and in 2015, an area of 600 km² received environmental protection by the government. The reserve is the recipient of monies raised by the 2016 Rutland Birdfair.

Velvet asity

The velvet asity (Philepitta castanea) is a species of bird in the Philepittidae family. It is endemic to Madagascar.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

The male of the velvet asity (Philepitta castanea) has yellow tips to its feathers when newly molted, but these wear off, leaving the bird all black; at the same time, a green wattle grows above the eye. The female is greenish.

Velvet asities eat berries and other fruit in undergrowth, and they build hanging nests with a little roof over the entrance.

Yellow-bellied sunbird-asity

The yellow-bellied sunbird-asity (Neodrepanis hypoxantha) is a small species of passerine bird from the asity family. The male has black upper parts with a bluish sheen and yellow underparts, and is sometimes known simply as the yellow-bellied asity. It is found only in montane rainforests of Madagascar where it feeds on nectar that it sips from flowers, defending a good nectar source from other nectar-feeding birds. It is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as "vulnerable" due to the diminution and fragmentation of its forest habitat.

Zahamena National Park

Zahamena National Park is a national park of Madagascar. Established in 1997, it covers an area of 423 square kilometres (163.32 sq mi) out of a total protected area of 643 square kilometres (248.26 sq mi). It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rainforests of the Atsinanana, inscribed in 2007 and consisting of 13 specific areas located within eight national parks in the eastern part of Madagascar. In 2001, Bird Life International assessed avifauna of 112 species of which 67 species are exclusively endemic to Madagascar.The park is habitat for 112 bird species, 46 reptile species, 62 species of amphibians and 48 species of mammals, including 13 species of lemurs. The ethnic groups inhabiting the area are mostly Betsimisaraka and Sihanak. The most prominent faunal species in the park are: Indri indri (babakoto), a black lemur with white patches; the Madagascar red owl (Tyto soumagnei), locally known as vorondolomena; the katsatsaka (Paroedura masobe), a small gecko; the Madagascar serpent eagle (Eutriorchis astur), a threatened species; and the red-tailed newtonia (Newtonia fanovanae), a very common bird species in the park. The two most prominent endemic floral species are Marattia boivinii (kobila) and Blotella coursii (fanjana malemy).

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