Monarchidae – Monarchs, Paradise Flycatchers & Allies

Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The monarchs (family Monarchidae) comprise a family of over 100 passerine birds which includes shrikebills, paradise flycatchers, and magpie-larks.

Monarchids are small insectivorous songbirds with long tails. They inhabit forest or woodland across sub-Saharan Africa, south-east Asia, Australasia and a number of Pacific islands. Only a few species migrate. Many species decorate their cup-shaped nests with lichen.

The monarchs are a diverse family of passerine birds that are generally arboreal (with the exception of the magpie-larks). They are mostly slim birds and possess broad bills. The bills of some species are quite large and the heavy-set bills of the shrikebills are used to probe dead wood and leaves. The plumage of the family ranges from sombre, such as the almost monochrome Black Monarch, to spectacular, as displayed by the Golden Monarch. The tails are generally long and spectacularly so in the paradise flycatchers in the genus Terpsiphone. Sexual dimorphism in plumage can be subtle, as in the Paperbark Flycatcher, where the female is identical to the male except for a slight buff on the throat; striking, as in the Chuuk Monarch where the male almost entirely white and the female entirely black; or non-existent, as in the Tahiti Monarch. In some species, for example the Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, the males have two or more colour morphs.

The monarchs have a mostly Old World distribution. In the western end of their range they are distributed through sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and the islands of the tropical Indian Ocean. They also occur in South and Southeastern Asia, north to Japan, down to New Guinea and most of Australia. The family has managed to reach many Pacific islands, and several endemic genera occur across Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia as far as Hawaii and the Marquesas.

The paradise flycatchers of the genus Terpsiphone have the widest distribution of any of the monarchs, ranging across almost all of sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, the Mascarenes and Seychelles, South, East and Southeastern Asia as far as Korea, Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Lesser Sundas. The other paradise flycatcher genus, Trochocercus, is restricted to Africa. The other exclusively Asian genus is the Hypothymis monarchs. The remaining genera are predominantly found in the Austro-Papuan and Oceania regions. A few monotypic genera are restricted to Pacific islands; these include the Chuuk Monarch (Metabolus) in the Micronesian island of Chuuk, the Hawaiian Elepaio (Chasiempis) and the Buff-bellied Monarch (Neolalage) which is restricted to the islands of Vanuatu. Other Pacific genera are the shrikebills (Clytorhynchus) and the Mayrornis monarchs, both of which are found in Melanesia and west Polynesia, and the Pomarea monarchs which are exclusively Polynesian in origin.

The majority of the family is found in forest and woodland habitats. Species that live in more open woodlands tend to live in the higher levels of the trees but, in denser forest, live in the middle and lower levels. Other habitats used by the monarchs include savannah and mangroves, and the terrestrial magpie-lark occurs in most Australian habitats except the driest deserts.

While the majority of monarchs are resident, a few species are partially migratory and one, the satin flycatcher, is fully migratory, although the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher is almost entirely migratory. The African Paradise Flycatcher makes a series of poorly understood intra-African migratory movements.

The monarchs are generally monogamous, with the pair bonds ranging from just a single season (as in the African Paradise Flycatcher) to life (the Elepaio). Only three species are known to engage in cooperative breeding; but many species are as yet unstudied. They are generally territorial, defending territories that are around 2 hectares in size, but a few species may cluster their nesting sites closely together. Nesting sites may also be chosen close to aggressive species, for example leaden flycatchers nests may be located near the nests of the aggressive Noisy Friarbird. The nests are in turn often aggressively defended by monarch species. In all species the nest is an open cup on a branch, fork or twig. In some species the nests can be highly conspicuous.

According to IOC there are 102 species in this family; they are:

Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Pale-blue Monarch Hypothymis puella
Short-crested Monarch Hypothymis helenae
Celestial Monarch Hypothymis coelestis

Cerulean Paradise Flycatcher Eutrichomyias rowleyi

Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher Trochocercus cyanomelas
Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher Trochocercus nitens

Bedford’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone bedfordi
Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufocinerea
Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer
Annobon Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone smithii
Bates’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone batesi
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis
Indian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
Oriental Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone affinis
Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata
Blue Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone cyanescens
Rufous Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone cinnamomea
Sao Tome Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrochalybeia
Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone mutata
Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone corvina
Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone bourbonnensis

Kauai Elepaio Chasiempis sclateri
Oahu Elepaio Chasiempis ibidis
Hawaii Elepaio Chasiempis sandwichensis

Rarotonga Monarch Pomarea dimidiata
Tahiti Monarch Pomarea nigra
Maupiti Monarch Pomarea pomarea
Marquesan Monarch Pomarea mendozae
Ua Pou Monarch Pomarea mira
Nuku Hiva Monarch Pomarea nukuhivae
Iphis Monarch Pomarea iphis
Eiao Monarch Pomarea fluxa
Fatu Hiva Monarch Pomarea whitneyi

Vanikoro Monarch Mayrornis schistaceus
Versicolored Monarch Mayrornis versicolor
Slaty Monarch Mayrornis lessoni

Buff-bellied Monarch Neolalage banksiana

Southern Shrikebill Clytorhynchus pachycephaloides
Fiji Shrikebill Clytorhynchus vitiensis
Black-throated Shrikebill Clytorhynchus nigrogularis
Santa Cruz Shrikebill Clytorhynchus sanctaecrucis
Rennell Shrikebill Clytorhynchus hamlini

Chuuk Monarch Metabolus rugensis

Black Monarch Symposiachrus axillaris
Spot-winged Monarch Symposiachrus guttula
Black-bibbed Monarch Symposiachrus mundus
Flores Monarch Symposiachrus sacerdotum
Black-chinned Monarch Symposiachrus boanensis
Spectacled Monarch Symposiachrus trivirgatus
Moluccan Monarch Symposiachrus bimaculatus
White-tailed Monarch Symposiachrus leucurus
White-tipped Monarch Symposiachrus everetti
Black-tipped Monarch Symposiachrus loricatus
Kofiau Monarch Symposiachrus julianae
Biak Monarch Symposiachrus brehmii
Hooded Monarch Symposiachrus manadensis
Manus Monarch Symposiachrus infelix
Mussau Monarch Symposiachrus menckei
Black-tailed Monarch Symposiachrus verticalis
Solomons Monarch Symposiachrus barbatus
Kolombangara Monarch Symposiachrus browni
White-collared Monarch Symposiachrus vidua

Rufous Monarch Monarcha rubiensis
Island Monarch Monarcha cinerascens
Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis
Black-winged Monarch Monarcha frater
Bougainville Monarch Monarcha erythrostictus
Chestnut-bellied Monarch Monarcha castaneiventris
White-capped Monarch Monarcha richardsii
Yap Monarch Monarcha godeffroyi
Tinian Monarch Monarcha takatsukasae

White-eared Monarch Carterornis leucotis
White-naped Monarch Carterornis pileatus
Golden Monarch Carterornis chrysomela

Ochre-collared Monarch Arses insularis
Frilled Monarch Arses telescopthalmus
Frill-necked Monarch Arses lorealis
Pied Monarch Arses kaupi

Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca
Torrent-lark Grallina bruijnii

Oceanic Flycatcher Myiagra oceanica
Palau Flycatcher Myiagra erythrops
Guam Flycatcher Myiagra freycineti
Pohnpei Flycatcher Myiagra pluto
Moluccan Flycatcher Myiagra galeata
Biak Black Flycatcher Myiagra atra
Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula
Steel-blue Flycatcher Myiagra ferrocyanea
Makira Flycatcher Myiagra cervinicauda
Melanesian Flycatcher Myiagra caledonica
Vanikoro Flycatcher Myiagra vanikorensis
Samoan Flycatcher Myiagra albiventris
Azure-crested Flycatcher Myiagra azureocapilla
Chestnut-throated Flycatcher Myiagra castaneigularis
Broad-billed Flycatcher Myiagra ruficollis
Satin Flycatcher Myiagra cyanoleuca
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto
Velvet Flycatcher Myiagra hebetior
Paperbark Flycatcher Myiagra nana
Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta

Family Links
  • Paradise Flycatchers

    ID Workshop
    Stunning photos, plus ID tips
Species Links
  • African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis

    Macaulay Library
  • African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis

    IUCN Species Status
    This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion.
  • African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis

    Species Account
    The African paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) is a medium-sized passerine bird with a very long tail. It is a common resident breeder in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
  • Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea

    Species Account
    The black-naped monarch or black-naped blue flycatcher (Hypothymis azurea) is a slim and agile passerine bird belonging to the family of monarch flycatchers.
  • Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca

    Species Account
    The Magpie-lark is distinctively marked in black and white. The thin whitish bill and pale iris separate it from other similarly coloured species. The adult male Magpie-lark has a white eyebrow and black face, while the female has an all-white face with no white eyebrow. Young birds have a black forehead, a white eyebrow and a white throat. The Magpie-lark is often referred to as a Peewee or Pee Wee, after the sound of its distinctive calls.
  • Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca

    Species Account
    The magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is a conspicuous Australian bird of small to medium size, also known as the mudlark in Victoria and Western Australia, the Murray magpie in South Australia, and as the peewee in New South Wales and Queensland.
  • Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca

    Cornell University
  • Spectacled Monarch Monarcha trivirgatus

    Species Account
    Species account...
  • Spectacled Monarch Monarcha trivirgatus

  • Spectacled Monarch Monarcha trivirgatus

    Species Account
    The Spectacled Monarch is blue-grey above, with a black face mask that extends across both eyes in a 'clover-leaf' pattern, rufous (red-orange) breast, white underparts and a black tail with white outer tips. Immature birds lack the black face and have a grey throat. The north Queensland subspecies albiventris has a rufous upper breast sharply defined from more extensive white underparts
  • Spectacled Monarch Monarcha trivirgatus

    IUCN Species Status
    The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be generally common (Flegg and Madge 1995, Coates et al. 1997).
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 102

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