Cnemophilidae – Satinbirds

Loria's Satinbird Cnemophilus loriae ©Markus Lilje Website

The satinbirds Cnemophilidae are a group of passerine birds consisting of three species found in the mountain forests of New Guinea. They were originally thought to be part of the birds-of-paradise family Paradisaeidae until genetic research suggested that the birds are not closely related to birds-of-paradise at all and are perhaps closer to Melanocharitidae. The current evidence suggests that their closest relatives may be the cuckoo-shrikes Campephagidae.

In each of the three species the male is more brightly coloured than the female, which is dull and inconspicuous. The male Yellow-breased Satinbirds have a yellow breasts, black heads and brown backs. The male Crested Satinbird has a reddish to orange head, back and tail with a black throat and breast and the Loria’s Satinbird male is the least distinctive, being black. Satinbirds have weak, non-manipulative feet, wide gapes (at one time they were given the name wide-gaped bird-of-paradise), as well as an unossified nasal region. Their bodies are compact with rounded wings.

Loria’s Satinbird may have the broadest range in the central highlands, mostly from 2000m to 4000m, but is inconspicuous except at fruiting trees. The Crested Satinbird inhabits high mountain forest and shrubbery, and the Yellow-breasted Satinbird is the least known. Almost nothing is known of its biology, and it seems scarce and local within the patches of habitat along the central ranges east to the base of the Huon Peninsula.

All species of satinbirds build domed nests, unlike those of birds of paradise. The female lays a single egg and takes care of it without any assistance from the male. Satinbirds feed exclusively on fruit, even at a young age.

The three species are:

Loria’s Satinbird (Velvet Bird-of-paradise) Cnemophilus loriae
Crested Satinbird (Antenna Bird-of-paradise) Cnemophilus macgregorii

Yellow-breasted Satinbird (Silken Bird-of-paradise) Loboparadisea sericea

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 3

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