Dicaeidae – Flowerpeckers

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma ©Paul Huang Website

The flowerpeckers are a family, Dicaeidae, of passerine birds. The family comprises two genera, Prionochilus and Dicaeum, with 48 species in total. The family has sometimes been included in an enlarged sunbird family Nectariniidae. The berrypeckers of the family Melanocharitidae and the painted berrypeckers, Paramythiidae, were once lumped into this family as well. The family is distributed through tropical southern Asia and Australasia from India east to the Philippines and south to Australia. The family is catholic in its habitat preferences, occupying a wide range of environments from sea level to montane habitats. Some species, such as the Mistletoebird of Australia, are recorded as being highly nomadic over parts of their range.

There is little variation between species in the family. Flowerpeckers are stout birds, with short necks and legs. These are small birds ranging from the 10-cm, 5.7-gram Pygmy Flowerpecker to the 18-cm, 12-gram Mottled Flowerpecker. They all have short tails, short thick curved bills and tubular tongues. The latter features reflect the importance of nectar in the diet of many species. They also have digestive systems that have evolved to deal efficiently with mistletoe berries. They are often dull in colour, although in several species the males have really bright orange, crimson or other colours such as patterned crimson or glossy-black plumage.

Nectar forms part of the diet, although they also take berries, spiders and insects. In 21 species in 12 genera Mistletoe has been found to be part of the diet, and it is thought that all species have adaptations to eat these berries and dispose of them quickly. Flowerpeckers may occur in mixed-species feeding flocks with sunbirds and white-eyes, as well as other species of flowerpecker.

The breeding biology of the flowerpeckers has been little studied. In the species where data has been collected they apparently form monogamous pairs for breeding, but the division of labour varies; in Scarlet-breasted Flowerpeckers, for example, both parents participate in all aspects of nest building, incubation and chick rearing, but in the Mistletoebird the female undertakes the first two tasks alone. Flowerpeckers lay 1-4 eggs, typically in a purse-like nest of plant fibres, suspended from a small tree or shrub. Recorded incubations times are scarce, but range from 10–12 days, with fledging occurring after 15 days.

The majority of flowerpeckers are resilient in their habits and are not threatened by human activities. Five species are considered to be near threatened by the IUCN, two are listed as vulnerable and one, the Cebu Flowerpecker, is listed as critically endangered. The status of the enigmatic Spectacled Flowerpecker is unknown. Habitat loss is the prime cause of the declines.

According the IOC there are 48 species in this family; they are:

Olive-backed Flowerpecker Prionochilus olivaceus
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus percussus
Palawan Flowerpecker Prionochilus plateni
Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker Prionochilus xanthopygius
Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus thoracicus

Golden-rumped Flowerpecker Dicaeum annae
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile
Striped Flowerpecker Dicaeum aeruginosum
Brown-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum everetti
Whiskered Flowerpecker Dicaeum proprium
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum
Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum melanoxanthum
Legge’s Flowerpecker Dicaeum vincens
Yellow-sided Flowerpecker Dicaeum aureolimbatum
Olive-capped Flowerpecker Dicaeum nigrilore
Flame-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum anthonyi
Bicolored Flowerpecker Dicaeum bicolor
Red-keeled Flowerpecker Dicaeum australe
Black-belted Flowerpecker Dicaeum haematostictum
Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker Dicaeum retrocinctum
Cebu Flowerpecker Dicaeum quadricolor
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
Buzzing Flowerpecker Dicaeum hypoleucum
Pale-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos
Nilgiri Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor
Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum minullum
Andaman Flowerpecker Dicaeum virescens
Pygmy Flowerpecker Dicaeum pygmaeum
Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum nehrkorni
Flame-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrothorax
Halmahera Flowerpecker Dicaeum schistaceiceps
Ashy Flowerpecker Dicaeum vulneratum
Olive-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum pectorale
Red-capped Flowerpecker Dicaeum geelvinkianum
Louisiade Flowerpecker Dicaeum nitidum
Red-banded Flowerpecker Dicaeum eximium
Midget Flowerpecker Dicaeum aeneum
White-mottled Flowerpecker Dicaeum tristrami
Black-fronted Flowerpecker Dicaeum igniferum
Blue-cheeked Flowerpecker Dicaeum maugei
Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum
Grey-sided Flowerpecker Dicaeum celebicum
Black-sided Flowerpecker Dicaeum monticolum
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus
Blood-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum sanguinolentum
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum
Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker Dicaeum trochileum

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 48

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND