Chloropseidae – Leafbirds

Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati ©Ian Montgomery Website

The leafbirds (Chloropseidae) are a family of small passerine bird species found in India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. They are one of only three bird families that are entirely endemic to the Indomalayan ecozone. They were formerly grouped with the ioras and fairy-bluebirds in the family Irenidae. As presently defined, the leafbird family is monogeneric, with all species placed in the genus Chloropsis.

The leafbirds range in size from 14cm to 21cm and in weight from 15g to 48g. They resemble bulbuls, but whereas that group tends to be drab in colour, leafbirds are brightly plumaged, with the predominant green over the body giving rise to their common name. The family is mostly sexually dimorphic in their plumage, this can vary from the highly dimorphic orange-bellied leafbird to the Philippine Leafbird, which exhibits no sexual dimorphism. Most of the differences between the sexes are in the extent of the other colours in the plumage, particularly in the colours around the head and the blue or black face mask, with females have less colour and a less extensive (or absent) mask. Some species have blue on the wings and tail. The plumage of juvenile birds is a duller version of the female’s. To human ears, their songs are melodious, and several species are good mimics. The calls include whistles and chatters.

Like bulbuls, leafbirds drop many body feathers when they are handled. This may confuse predators, especially snakes.

Leafbirds are always found in trees and shrubs. Most are restricted to evergreen forests except the Golden-fronted Leafbird and Jerdon’s Leafbird which live in deciduous monsoon forests, and the Orange-bellied Leafbird, which occurs in deciduous forests. Within this requirement, they occupy all broadleaf forest types in the South and Southeast Asia. The highest altitude they occur at is 2500m. Some species, such as the Blue-masked Leafbird, have montane distributions, rarely descending below 1000m.

The Orange-bellied Leafbird and the Golden-fronted Leafbird are amongst the more widespread species, with large ranges across mainland Asia. Some species have more restricted distributions, such as the Yellow-throated Leafbird, which is endemic to the Philippine island of Palawan, and the Bornean Leafbird, restricted to northern Borneo. In general there are seldom more than three species occurring in the same area, although five species co-occur in the submontane forests of Sumatra. Co-occurring species are usually well-spaced on the spectrum of size, to reduce competition

Leafbirds usually feed in the canopy, eating insects and some fruit and nectar. Prey is searched for by nimbly moving along the branch ends and gleaned. They are also capable of hover-gleaning to obtain prey, and will pursue flushed prey into the air or even as far as the forest floor. The extent to which the leafbirds consume nectar is a matter of some debate, records are more common in Southern Asia compared to South East Asia. Some species join mixed feeding flocks now and then; others defend the blooming and fruiting trees and bushes where they forage.

Unlike most tropical Asian passerines, the nests of leafbirds are not located low down in the forest, but are instead found on the ends of branches near the tree crown. As such the nests of many species have rarely, if ever, been seen. The nests are open cups; of the few known, they are built of fine stems, leaf parts and rootlets. Some hang from thin horizontal shoots of trees; in others the rim is attached to a pair of vertical twigs. Females lay 2 or 3 pinkish eggs. The only information for incubation times come from captive birds, and incubation lasts around 14 days. Incubation is apparently performed only by the female, although in at least two species the male feeds the incubating females

According to most authorities there are just 11 species of Leafbird; they are:

Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis
Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis
Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati
Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon
Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis
Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis
Jerdon’s Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni
Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons
Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media
Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii
Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta

Species Links
  • Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta

    Species Account
    The blue-masked leafbird (Chloropsis venusta) is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is endemic to humid montane forest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is the smallest species of leafbird.
  • Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis venusta Bonaparte, 1850, Sumatra. Monotypic.
  • Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Turdus Cochinchinensis J. F. Gmelin, 1789, Cochinchina; error = Java. Probably forms a superspecies with C. jerdoni, C. kinabaluensis and C. palawanensis; until recently was regarded as conspecific with first two. The name nigricollis, long used for the Javan (nominate) race, has no designated type or type locality, and therefore no formal taxonomic standing. Described races icterocephala (from Sumatra), billitonis (Belitung) and natunensis (Natuna Is) considered better merged with moluccensis. Seven subspecies recognized.
  • Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis

    Species Account
    The blue-winged leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis) is a species of leafbird found in forest and second growth throughout Southeast Asia as far east as Borneo and as far south as Java.
  • Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis

    Species Account
    The Bornean leafbird (Chloropsis kinabaluensis), also known as the Kinabalu leafbird, is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is found in humid forests in northern Borneo, to which island it is endemic. It has traditionally been considered a subspecies of the blue-winged leafbird (C. cochinchinensis), but differ in measurements and morphology, the female Borneon leafbird having a distinctive male-like plumage.
  • Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis

    IUCN Species Status
    The population size is unknown, but the species is described as fairly common (del Hoyo et al. 2006).
  • Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Chloropsis kinabaluensis Sharpe, 1887, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo.
  • Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis aurifrons Temminck, 1829, Cachar, Assam, north-east India. Forms a superspecies with C. media and was for long considered conspecific, but differs in several respects, including in development of mask. Six subspecies recognized.
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons

    IUCN Species Status
    The population size is unknown, but the species is described as common to fairly common throughout much of its range (del Hoyo et al. 2006).
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons

    Species Account
    The golden-fronted leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons) is a species of leafbird. It is a common resident breeder in India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Southeast Asia. It often includes the Sumatran leafbird (C. media) from Sumatra as a subspecies, but the two differ extensively in, among others, morphology.
  • Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Chloropsis Sonnerati Jardine and Selby, 1827, Java.Named race parvirostris, from Nias I (off W Sumatra), merged with zosterops, as its bill characters fall within range of variation of mainland populations. Two subspecies recognized.
  • Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati

    IUCN Species Status
    c.20 cm. The largest leafbird, gleaming green above and golden yellow-green below with a long hook-tipped bill. Male has a black mask enclosing the eye and a cobalt blue jawline flash. Female lacks the mask and has a paler blue jawline flash. Known for the clarity of its voice, and ready ability to incorporate other species phrases into its vocabulary, much to the species detriment at present.
  • Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati

    Species Account
    The greater green leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is distinguished from the lesser green leafbird (Chloropsis cyanopogon) by its powerful beak, yellow throat and eye ring of the female; and lack of a yellow border along the black throat patch found in the male c. cyanopogan.
  • Jerdon's Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni

    Species Account
    Jerdon's leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni) is a species of leafbird found in forest and woodland in India and Sri Lanka. Its name honours Thomas C. Jerdon.[2] It has traditionally been considered a subspecies of the blue-winged leafbird (C. cochinchinensis), but differ in measurements and morphology, it lacking the blue flight feathers for which the blue-winged leafbird was named.
  • Jerdon's Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Jerdon's Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis jerdoni Blyth, 1844, central India. Probably forms a superspecies with C. cochinchinensis, C. kinabaluensis and C. palawanensis; was for long regarded as a race of first of those, but differs in bill morphology and plumage details. Wing length in N (male 92–93 mm, two females 86 mm and 88 mm) larger than in S (male down to 85 mm in Sri Lanka), but differences considered insufficient to warrant naming of geographical races. Monotypic.
  • Jerdon's Leafbird Chloropsis jerdoni

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis cyanopogon Temminck, 1830, Palembang, Sumatra. Two subspecies recognized.
  • Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon

    IUCN Species Status
    This forest-associated species is listed as Near Threatened because it is assumed to have experienced moderately rapid declines owing to the extensive loss of lowland forests from large areas of South-East Asia.
  • Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon

    Species Account
    The lesser green leafbird (Chloropsis cyanopogon) is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is found in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.
  • Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Chloropsis Hardwickii Jardine and Selby, 1830, Nepal. Nominate race and malayana intergrade in S Myanmar (N Tenasserim) and possibly more widely; these two are well differentiated from E races, but the two groups intergrade in N Laos, possibly also in SW China. Population in SC Vietnam (including Da Lat Plateau), currently included in melliana, may represent a separate, as yet undescribed race; further study required. Four subspecies recognized.
  • Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii

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  • Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii

    Species Account
    The orange-bellied leafbird (Chloropsis hardwickii) is a bird native to the central and eastern Himalayas, Yunnan and northern parts of Southeast Asia. The scientific name commemorates the English naturalist Thomas Hardwicke.
  • Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis

    Species Account
    The Philippine leafbird (Chloropsis flavipennis) is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is endemic to the Philippines. It is found in the islands of Mindanao, Leyte, and Cebu.
  • Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis flavipennis Tweeddale, 1878, Cebu, Philippines. Relationships uncertain; its yellow flight-feather edging most closely resembles that of C. jerdoni. Birds from NE Mindanao, described as race mindanensis, considered inseparable from those in rest of range. Monotypic.
  • Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis

    IUCN Species Status
    18 cm. Small-medium, green, canopy-dwelling passerine. Entire plumage bright green except for yellow eye-ring, throat and line on closed wing formed by yellow primary fringes. Dark bill, iris and legs.
  • Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis media Bonaparte, 1850, Sumatra. Forms a superspecies with C. aurifrons and was for long considered conspecific, but differs sufficiently, including in development of mask, to warrant species rank. Monotypic.
  • Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media

    IUCN Species Status
    17-18cm. A yellow-hued leafbird, with very yellow underparts and clear yellow crown. Males have a black mask extending to the lower throat with a vivid purple jawline, while the female completely lacks a mask, has a yellow eyelid rim and has a turquoise jawline flash. Both have electric blue carpal patches
  • Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media

    Species Account
    The Sumatran leafbird (Chloropsis media) is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is endemic to forest and plantations in Sumatra in Indonesia.
  • Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Phyllornis palawanensis Sharpe, 1876, Palawan, Philippines. Probably forms a superspecies with C. cochinchinensis, C. jerdoni and C. kinabaluensis. Monotypic.
  • Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis

    Species Account
    The yellow-throated leafbird (Chloropsis palawanensis) is a species of bird in the Chloropseidae family. It is endemic to the Palawan in the Philippines.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 11

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