The Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae is a large family of small passerine birds restricted to the Old World. These are mainly small arboreal insectivores, many of which, as the name implies, take their prey on the wing.
The appearance of these birds is very varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls. They are small to medium birds, ranging from 10 to 21 centimetres in length. Many species are a dull brown in colour, but the plumage of some can be much brighter, especially in the males. Most have broad, flattened, bill, suited to catching insects in flight, although the few ground foraging species typically have finer bills.
Old World flycatchers live in almost every environment with a suitable supply of trees, from dense forest to open scrub, and even the montane woodland of the Himalayas. The more northerly species migrate south in winter, ensuring a continuous diet of insects.
Depending on the species, their nests are either well-constructed cups placed in a tree or cliff ledge, or simply lining in a pre-existing tree hole. The hole-nesting species tend to lay larger clutches, with an average of eight eggs, rather than just two to five.
This article follows the Handbook of Birds of the World
in including the small chat
-like ground feeders previously classed with the Turdidae thrushes
in this group. Recent biochemical studies place certain traditional thrush genera (Monticola
, and Alethe
) here in the Muscicapidae
. Conversely the Asian saxicoline genera Grandala
belong among the thrushes.
The division of Muscicapidae into two subfamilies may be artificial. Some genera in one subfamily are closer to members of the other and vice-versa. As the exact relationships of the family's members are worked out the internal taxonomic structure of the family may need to be radically revised.
Muscicapidae in taxonomic order
This is a list of muscicapid species, presented in taxonomic order.
- Subfamily Muscicapinae - typical flycatchers
- Subfamily Saxicolinae - chats and allies (formerly in Turdidae)
- Genus Tarsiger, bush-robins (5 species)
- Genus Luscinia (11 species) - paraphyletic
- Genus Erithacus (3 species) - paraphyletic
- Genus Irania, White-throated Robin
- Genus Saxicola, bushchats and stonechats (14 species)
- Genus Monticola: rock thrushes (13 species, includes Pseudocossyphus)
- Genus Pogonocichla, White-starred Robin
- Genus Swynnertonia, Swynnerton's Robin
- Genus Stiphrornis, forest robins (1-5 species, depending on taxonomy)
- Genus Xenocopsychus, Angola Cave Chat
- Genus Saxicoloides, Indian Robin
- Genus Cinclidium (3 species)
- Genus Namibornis, Herero Chat
- Genus Cercomela (9 species)
- Genus Myrmecocichla (7 species)
- Genus Thamnolaea, cliff chats (2 species)
- Genus Pinarornis, Boulder Chat
- Genus Sheppardia, akalats (9 species)
- Genus Cossyphicula, White-bellied Robin-chat - may belong in Cossypha
- Genus Cossypha, robin-chats (14 species)
- Genus Cichladusa, palm-thrushes (3 species)
- Genus Cercotrichas, scrub-robins or bush-chats (11 species) - possibly muscicapine
- Genus Copsychus, magpie-robins or shamas (7 species) - possibly muscicapine
- Genus Phoenicurus, true redstarts (11 species)- forms a well-supported clade with the following 2 genera placed within
- Genus Chaimarrornis, White-capped Redstart - Paraphyletic with some Phoenicurus
- Genus Rhyacornis (2 species) - Paraphyletic with some Phoenicurus
- Genus Enicurus, forktails (7 species)
- Genus Myophonus: whistling thrushes (9 species)
- Genus Oenanthe, wheatears (some 20 species)
- Genus Trichixos, Rufous-tailed Shama
- Genus Brachypteryx: shortwings (5 species)
- Genus Heinrichia: Great Shortwing
- Genus Alethe: alethes (5 species)
- Aberrant redstart, subfamily assignment not fully resolved
- Del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Christie D. (editors). (2006). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 849655306X.
- Jønsson, K.A., and J. Fjeldsa. 2006. A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine birds (Aves:Passeri). Zoologica Scripta 35: 149-186.
- Lei, X., Lian, Z.-M., Lei F.-M., Yin Z.-H., Zhao H.-F. 2007. Phylogeny of some Muscicapinae birds based on cyt b mitochondrial gene sequences. Acta Zoologica Sinica, 53(1):95 - 105. PDF fulltext
- Outlaw, D.C., Voelker, G. 2006. Systematics of Ficedula flycatchers (Muscicapidae): A molecular reassessment of a taxonomic enigma. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution Vol. 41:1, pp 118-126. PDF fulltext
- Pan, Q.-W., Lei F.-M., Yang S.-J., Yin Z.-H., Huang Y., Tai F.-D., Kristin, A. 2006. Phylogenetic analysis of some Turdinae birds based on mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences. Acta Zoologica Sinica, 52(1):87 - 98. PDF fulltext