Fire-breasted flowerpecker

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Fire-breasted flowerpecker
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Khangchendzonga National Park West Sikkim Sikkim India 29.10.2015.jpg
Male of nominate subspecies from Khangchendzonga National Park
Dicaeum ignipectus female (cropped).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Dicaeidae
Genus: Dicaeum
D. ignipectus
Binomial name
Dicaeum ignipectus
(Blyth, 1843)

Myzanthe ignipectus
Micrura ignipectus

The fire-breasted flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectus) is a species of bird in the Dicaeidae family found in South and Southeast Asia. Like other flowerpeckers, this tiny bird feeds on fruits and plays an important role in the dispersal of fruiting plants.[2][3] Unlike many other species in the genus, this species has marked sexual dimorphism with the male having contrasting upper and lower parts with a distinctive bright orange breast patch. The female is dull coloured.


The fire-breasted flowerpecker is a small flowerpecker with a small and dark bill. The male has glossy blue-black upperparts. The underside is buffy but a bright red breast patch. Starting below it and along the middle is a short black stripe going down till the belly. The female is dark olive above and buff below. The sides are olive and the bill has a pale base.[4]

Lithograph by John Gould in the Birds of Asia (1850–83), volume 6, plate 14. T. C. Jerdon noted that he had in his Birds of India, "... omitted to mention the black streak extending along the middle of the abdomen from the termination of the scarlet breast-spot...."[5]
Male of nominate race, Nepal.

Weighing just 7–9 g (0.25–0.32 oz) and measuring under 7 cm (2.8 in) long, it is one of the smallest flowerpeckers.[2] They are usually found at the tops of the trees especially on mistletoes. They have a shrill call given regularly and has been likened to snipping scissors and a staccato tsit.[4]

The species was first described by Edward Blyth in 1843 based on a specimen obtained from Nepal by B H Hodgson.[6] The name was based on Hodgson's manuscripts but was published by Blyth.[7] The type specimen claimed to have been deposited at the British Museum is said to be lost, but may exist in the collection of the Asiatic Society museum in Calcutta.[8]

It has been said to be "the smallest bird of India" or "perhaps the smallest":[9]

... the Fire-breasted Myzanthe (Myzanthe ignipectus), a bird which is remarkable as being the smallest bird of India. So very small is this beautiful little bird, that an adult specimen is hardly two and a half inches in total length, and weighs only three and a half drachms. In its habits it is very like the Dicaeum, frequenting the tops of trees, and keeping itself well out of sight...

— John George Wood, 1862[10]


It is found widely distributed along the sub-Himalayan region in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh[11][12] and extends into Southeast Asia into China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines. Its natural habitats are temperate forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

D. i. formosum

Several populations have been named as subspecies. The nominate ignipectus found along the Himalayas into Southeast Asia on the mainland. The remaining are insular populations and include formosum of Taiwan, luzoniense of Luzon, bonga of Samar and apo of the Negros and Mindanao. The species itself forms a superspecies complex with Dicaeum monticolum, D. celebicum, D. sanguinolentum and D. hirundinaceum which are sometimes all treated as one species. Hybridization with Dicaeum cruentatum has been suggested.[13][14] Many island forms show patterns of very restricted ranges or micro-endemism and it has been suggested that these be treated with care for conservation planning.[15]

The populations found in the Philippines have males with the underparts similar to D. monticolum while the females have a steel-green gloss on the upperparts unlike the dull green of more northern forms. The Sumatran population beccarii is the most distinct form and differs also from D. sanguinolentum. The males have a steel-green gloss on the upper parts and lack the throat patch while the females have greenish upperparts and lack the red rump.[14]

Throughout its range, the species is found in high mountains above 1000 metres but in China, they may be found during winter at lower altitudes.[14]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Like many other flowerpeckers, they disperse the seeds of mistletoes. In the Nepal Himalayas, they have been found to be important dispersers of Scurrula species.[16]

In Nainital they are said to breed in June and July. The nest is pendant and purse like, opening on the side towards the top. The nest is thin and felt-like, made up of the hairy coverings of stems from mistletoes. The nest is lined with moss and soft grass. Two or three eggs are laid and both sexes incubate and take care of the young.[17][18]

In Hong Kong, their population is believed to have increased with maturation of restored forests. They were first recorded in 1954 but have starter breed regularly since 1975.[19]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Dicaeum ignipectus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b Ingle, Nina R (2003). "Seed dispersal by wind, birds, and bats between Philippine montane rainforest and successional vegetation". Oecologia. 134 (2): 251–261. Bibcode:2003Oecol.134..251I. doi:10.1007/s00442-002-1081-7. JSTOR 4223499. PMID 12647166.
  3. ^ Corlett, Richard T (1998). "Frugivory and seed dispersal by birds in Hong Kong shrubland" (PDF). Forktail. 13: 23–27.
  4. ^ a b Rasmussen PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. pp. 545–546.
  5. ^ Jerdon, TC (1872). "Supplementary notes to the "Birds of India"". Ibis. 2 Third series: 1–21. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1872.tb05855.x.
  6. ^ Blyth, E (1843). "Mr. Blyth's monthly Report for December Meeting, 1842, with addenda subsequently appended". Journ. As. Soc. Bengal. 12 part 2 no 143: 983.
  7. ^ Rothschild, Lord (1921). "On a collection of birds from West-Central and North-Western Yunnan". Novitates Zoologicae. 28: 14–67 [57]. doi:10.5962/bhl.part.26912.
  8. ^ Rachel L. M. Warren & C.J.O. Harrison (1971). Type specimens of Birds in The Natural History Museum. 2. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History).
  9. ^ Dewar, Douglas (1915). Birds of the Indian hills. John Lane, London. p. 76. "The fire-breasted flower-pecker (Dicaeum ignipectus) is perhaps the smallest bird in India." p. 76
  10. ^ Wood, John George (1862). The illustrated Natural History. 3. p. 210.
  11. ^ Khan, MMH (2004). "Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus: the first record for Bangladesh" (PDF). Forktail. 20: 120. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-04.
  12. ^ "Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectus)".
  13. ^ Baker, EC Stuart (1898). "Probably hybrid between the scarlet-backed flower-pecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) and the Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (D. ignipectus)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 11: 467.
  14. ^ a b c Salomonsen, Finn (1961). "Notes on flowerpeckers (Aves, Dicaeidae). 4, Dicaeum igniferum and its derivatives. American Museum novitates ; no. 2057". American Museum Novitates. 2057. hdl:2246/3436.
  15. ^ Peterson, A T (2006). "Taxonomy is important in conservation: a preliminary reassessment of Philippine species-level bird taxonomy" (PDF). Bird Conservation International. 16 (2): 155–173. doi:10.1017/S0959270906000256. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-28.
  16. ^ Devkota, M P (2005). "Mistletoes of the Annapurna Conservation Area, Central Nepal Himalayas". Journal of Japanese Botany. 80 (1): 27–36.
  17. ^ Hume, AO (1890). The nest and eggs of Indian Birds. 2. R. H. Porter, London. p. 272.
  18. ^ Ali S & S D Ripley (1999). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 10 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 18–19.
  19. ^ Leven, MR & RT Corlett (2004). "Invasive birds in Hong Kong, China". Ornithological Science. 3 (1): 43–55. doi:10.2326/osj.3.43.

Other sources[edit]

  • Lin, Chen-Wei (2006). Studying breeding bird densities in Meifeng Area by Territory mapping. M Sc. Thesis. National Taiwan University. PDF

External links[edit]