Monarchids are small insectivorous songbirds with long tails. They inhabit forest or woodland across sub-Saharan Africa, south-east Asia, Australasia and a number of Pacific islands. Only a few species migrate. Many species decorate their cup-shaped nests with lichen.
|Mascarene paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone bourbonnensis)|
Some of the one hundred or more species making up the family were previously assigned to other groups, largely on the basis of general morphology or behaviour. The magpie-lark, for example, was assigned to the same family as the white-winged chough, since both build unusual nests from mud rather than vegetable matter.
With the new insights generated by the DNA-DNA hybridisation studies of Sibley and his co-workers toward the end of the 20th century, however, it became clear that these apparently unrelated birds were all descended from a common ancestor: the same crow-like ancestor that gave rise to the drongos. On that basis they were previously included as a subfamily of the Dicruridae, along with the fantails, although it is now treated at familial rank as Monarchidae.
More recently, the grouping has been refined somewhat as the original concept of Corvida has proven paraphyletic. The narrower 'Core corvine' group now comprises the crows and ravens, shrikes, birds of paradise, fantails, monarchs, drongos and mudnest builders.
The monarch family has sixteen extant genera as follows:
The monarchs are a diverse family of passerine birds that are generally arboreal (with the exception of the magpie-larks). They are mostly slim birds and possess broad bills. The bills of some species are quite large and the heavy-set bills of the shrikebills are used to probe dead wood and leaves. The plumage of the family ranges from sombre, such as the almost monochrome black monarch, to spectacular, as displayed by the golden monarch. The tails are generally long and spectacularly so in the paradise flycatchers in the genus Terpsiphone. Sexual dimorphism in plumage can be subtle, as in the paperbark flycatcher, where the female is identical to the male except for a slight buff on the throat; striking, as in the Chuuk monarch where the male almost entirely white and the female entirely black; or non-existent, as in the Tahiti monarch. In some species, for example the Malagasy paradise flycatcher, the males have two or more colour morphs.
The monarchs have a mostly Old World distribution. In the western end of their range they are distributed through sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and the islands of the tropical Indian Ocean. They also occur in South and Southeastern Asia, north to Japan, down to New Guinea and most of Australia. The family has managed to reach many Pacific islands, and several endemic genera occur across Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia as far as Hawaii and the Marquesas.
The paradise flycatchers of the genus Terpsiphone have the widest distribution of any of the monarchs, ranging across almost all of sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, the Mascarenes and Seychelles, southern and eastern Asia as far as Korea, Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Lesser Sundas. The other paradise flycatcher genus, Trochocercus, is restricted to Africa. The other exclusively Asian genus is the Hypothymis monarchs. The remaining genera are predominantly found in the Austro-Papuan and Oceania regions. A few monotypic genera are restricted to Pacific islands; these include the Chuuk monarch (Metabolus) in the Micronesian island of Chuuk, the Hawaiian Elepaio (Chasiempis) and the buff-bellied monarch (Neolalage) which is restricted to the islands of Vanuatu. Other Pacific genera are the shrikebills (Clytorhynchus) and the Mayrornis monarchs, both of which are found in Melanesia and west Polynesia, and the Pomarea monarchs which are exclusively Polynesian in origin.
The majority of the family is found in forest and woodland habitats. Species that live in more open woodlands tend to live in the higher levels of the trees but, in denser forest, live in the middle and lower levels. Other habitats used by the monarchs include savannah and mangroves, and the terrestrial magpie-lark occurs in most Australian habitats except the driest deserts.
While the majority of monarchs are resident, a few species are partially migratory and one, the satin flycatcher, is fully migratory, although the Japanese paradise flycatcher is almost entirely migratory. The African paradise flycatcher makes a series of poorly understood intra-African migratory movements.
The monarchs are generally monogamous, with the pair bonds ranging from just a single season (as in the African paradise flycatcher) to life (the Elepaio). Only three species are known to engage in cooperative breeding; but many species are as yet unstudied. They are generally territorial, defending territories that are around 2 ha in size, but a few species may cluster their nesting sites closely together. Nesting sites may also be chosen close to aggressive species, for example leaden flycatchers nests may be located near the nests of the aggressive noisy friarbird. The nests are in turn often aggressively defended by monarch species. In all species the nest is an open cup on a branch, fork or twig. In some species the nests can be highly conspicuous.
The Biak monarch (Symposiachrus brehmii), or Biak monarch flycatcher, is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae.
It is endemic to Biak Island, Indonesia.
Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss; the Biak monarch's habitat is affected by clearing forests for agricultural use and by logging. There are an estimated 2,500 to 9,999 adult birds of the species. If juvenile birds are included, the population may be between 3,500 and 15,000 individuals. Its population is decreasing.Black-faced monarch
The black-faced monarch (Monarcha melanopsis) is a passerine bird in the family Monarchidae found along the eastern seaboard of Australia.Black-naped monarch
The black-naped monarch or black-naped blue flycatcher (Hypothymis azurea) is a slim and agile passerine bird belonging to the family of monarch flycatchers found in southern and south-eastern Asia. They are sexually dimorphic, with the male having a distinctive black patch on the back of the head and a narrow black half collar ("necklace"), while the female is duller with olive brown wings and lacking the black markings on the head. They have a call that is similar to that of the Asian paradise flycatcher, and in tropical forest habitats, pairs may join mixed-species foraging flocks. Populations differ slightly in plumage colour and sizes.Black-winged monarch
The black-winged monarch (Monarcha frater) is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae.
It is found in Australia and on New Guinea.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.Black monarch
The black monarch (Symposiachrus axillaris) is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae.
It is found in New Guinea.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest and subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.Chestnut-bellied monarch
The Chestnut-bellied monarch (Monarcha castaneiventris), or chestnut-bellied monarch-flycatcher is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae. It is endemic to the Solomon Islands.Golden monarch
The golden monarch (Carterornis chrysomela) is a species of passerine bird in the family Monarchidae found in New Guinea.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forest. The golden monarch displays marked sexual dimorphism, the male a striking golden colour with black mask, wings and tail, the female a golden or golden-olive colour. Both bear a characteristic 'teardrop' white pattern below the eye.Hooded monarch
The hooded monarch (Symposiachrus manadensis) is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae.
It is found on New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.Island monarch
The island monarch (Monarcha cinerascens) is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae. It is found from Sulawesi to the Solomon Islands.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.Kofiau monarch
The Kofiau monarch (Symposiachrus julianae) is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae. It is endemic to Kofiau in Indonesia.Pied monarch
The pied monarch (Arses kaupi) is a species of bird in the monarch-flycatcher family Monarchidae. It is endemic to coastal Queensland in Australia.Pomarea
Pomarea is a genus of birds in the monarch flycatcher family Monarchidae. The genus is restricted to the islands of Polynesia. The monarchs of this genus are around 15–19 cm long and most have sexually dimorphic plumage.Rarotonga monarch
The Rarotonga monarch (Pomarea dimidiata), also known as the Rarotonga flycatcher and kakerori, is a species of bird in the monarch flycatcher family Monarchidae. It is endemic to the Cook Islands.Rufous monarch
The rufous monarch (Monarcha rubiensis), or rufous monarch flycatcher, is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae found in western New Guinea.
Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.Shining flycatcher
The shining flycatcher (Myiagra alecto) is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae.
It is found in northern Australia, and from the Moluccas to the Bismarck Archipelago.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest and subtropical or tropical mangrove forest.Shrikebill
The shrikebills are the monarch flycatcher genus Clytorhynchus. The five species have long laterally compressed bills similar to true shrikes that give them their names. The genus is endemic to the islands of Melanesia and western Polynesia.The shrikebills are insectivorous, and use their large heavy bills to explore tangles of dead leaves and dead wood; an unusual foraging strategy for their family. Their diet may also include small fruits and lizards.Spot-winged monarch
The spot-winged monarch (Symposiachrus guttula), or spot-wing monarch flycatcher, is a species of bird in the family Monarchidae. It is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.Tahiti monarch
The Tahiti monarch (Pomarea nigra), or Tahiti flycatcher, is a rare species of bird in the monarch flycatcher family. It is endemic to Tahiti in French Polynesia. There are fewer than 50 individuals remaining.‘Elepaio
The ʻelepaios are three species of monarch flycatcher in the genus Chasiempis. They are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, and were formerly considered conspecific. They measure 14 cm long and weigh 12–18 g. One species inhabits the Big Island, another Oʻahu and the third Kauaʻi. Being one of the most adaptable native birds of Hawaiʻi, no subspecies have yet become extinct, though two have become quite rare.
The ʻelepaio is the first native bird to sing in the morning and the last to stop singing at night; apart from whistled and chattering contact and alarm calls, it is probably best known for its song, from which derives the common name: a pleasant and rather loud warble which sounds like e-le-PAI-o or ele-PAI-o. It nests between January and June.