Monday, August 25, 2014

Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea) Hongzui xiangsiniao

(15 cm.) Red bill; thick white eye-ring; orange breast; yellow belly; yellow patches on wings

The Red-billed Leiothrix is a colorful species of the babbler family, “Timaliidae.” Despite the fact that the bird is fairly common, it is rarely seen. This is due to its love of dense jungle and pine forest habitats with dense ground vegetation that allows the bird to remain hidden from most observers. This species is often called by other names such as Pekin Robin, Pekin Nightingale and Japanese Nightingale, despite the fact that it is not native to Japan.

All babblers, this species included, share certain common traits which help to distinguish them from other songbirds. Most have harsh, chattering and unmusical calls unlike the more pleasing sounds of other songbird species. Most babblers tend to be “sedentary” or inactive, and remain close to the ground. They are weak fliers and as such do not undertake migrations. Babblers are usually quite gregarious, liking the company of others of its kind.

The Red-billed Leiothrix is an omnivore which eats both plant and animal matter. It feeds among the vegetation on or close to the ground of its forest and jungle habitats. It is fond of fruits such as strawberries, guava and papaya and many types of insects.

During the summer breeding season, this species makes an open cup-shaped nest of a type similar to other babblers which is usually situated close to the ground in a shrub. The nest is usually composed of leaves, moss and lichen. As the nest is placed in a shrub surrounded by dense vegetation, it is usually well-hidden from predators. The female lays 2-4 eggs with 3 eggs constituting the normal clutch size.

In China, the Red-billed Leiothrix is found throughout the southeastern mainland from the South Coast as far north as approximately the Shanghai region.

The Red-billed Leiothrix and the Hwamei are two Chinese songbird species which have been introduced widely to other locations around the world. Both species have been introduced in Hawaii and have thrived there. In other places such as Australia, France and England, the Red-billed Leiothrix was introduced but failed to establish itself. Hawaii is much richer today for the presence of this lovely Chinese bird.

Red Billed Leiothrix (Photo by Dick Daniels)

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