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

Species Links
  • Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Mesites unicolor Des Murs, 1845, Madagascar.Formerly placed in genus Mesoenas. Monotypic.
  • Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor

    IUCN Species Status
  • Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor

    Species Account
    The brown mesite (Mesitornis unicolor) is a ground-dwelling bird endemic to Madagascar. It is one of three species in the mesite family or the Mesitornithidae, and though classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is the most widespread of the three.
  • Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Monias Benschi Oustalet and G. Grandidier, 1903, Vorondreo (25 km east of Toliara), Madagascar.Monotypic.
  • Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

    IUCN Species Status
  • Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

    Species Account
    The subdesert mesite (Monias benschi) is a ground-dwelling bird endemic to Madagascar. It is one of three species in the mesite family Mesitornithidae, and is restricted in distribution to a small low-land region in southwest Madagascar.
  • White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata

    BirdLife Species Account
  • White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata

    IBC Species Account
  • White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Mesites variegata I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1838, Madagascar. Formerly placed in genus Mesoenas. Recent anomalous record from rainforest may prove to belong to subspecifically distinct population, but no relevant specimens known to exist. Monotypic.
  • White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata

    IUCN Species Status
  • White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata

    Species Account
    The white-breasted mesite (Mesitornis variegatus) is a ground-dwelling bird endemic to Madagascar. One of three species in the mesite family, Mesitornithidae, it is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It has a small population and is restricted to five sites in the north and west of the island, and one in the east.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 3

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