Mesitornithidae – Mesites

Sub-desert Mesite Monias benschi ©Markus Lilje Website

The Mesitornithidae commonly called Mesites are a family of birds that are part of a clade (Columbimorphae) that include Columbiformes and Pterocliformes. They are smallish, near flightless birds endemic to Madagascar. They are the only family with more than two species in which every species is threatened (all three are listed as vulnerable).

They are forest and scrubland birds that feed on insects and seeds. The Brown Mesite and White-breasted Mesite forage on the ground, gleaning insects from the leaves and under them, as well as low vegetation. The Subdesert Mesite uses its long bill to probe in the soil. Other birds, such as drongos and flycatchers, will follow mesites to catch any insects they flush and miss. Mesites are vocal birds, with calls similar to passerine song, used for territorial defence. Two or three white eggs are laid in a stick-nest located in a bush or low branch. The Mesitornis species are monogamous; Monias benschi is polygamous and unlike the other two shows significant sexual dichromatism.

There are just three species in this family, which are:

White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata
Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor
Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 3

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