Indian paradise flycatcher

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Indian paradise flycatcher
Terpsiphone paradisi -near Amaya Lake, Dambulla, Sri Lanka-8.jpg
Adult male in Sri Lanka
Asian Paradise-flycatcher (Female).jpg
Female in Sri Lanka
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Monarchidae
Genus: Terpsiphone
T. paradisi
Binomial name
Terpsiphone paradisi

See text

  • Corvus paradisi Linnaeus, 1758
  • Muscicapa paradisi Linnaeus, 1766
  • Tchitrea paradisi (Linnaeus, 1758)

The Indian paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi) is a medium-sized passerine bird native to Asia that is widely distributed. As the global population is considered stable, it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2004. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and Myanmar.[1]

Males have elongated central tail feathers, and a black and rufous plumage in some populations, while others have white plumage. Females are short-tailed with rufous wings and a black head.[2] Indian paradise flycatchers feed on insects, which they capture in the air often below a densely canopied tree.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The Indian paradise flycatcher was originally described as belonging to the genus Corvus.[3] Paradise-flycatchers used to be classified with the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae, but are now placed in the family Monarchidae together with monarch flycatchers.[4][5]

Until 2015, the Indian paradise flycatcher, Blyth's paradise flycatcher, and the Amur paradise flycatcher were all considered conspecific, and together called the Asian paradise flycatcher.[6]


Three subspecies are recognized:[6]

  • Himalayan paradise flycatcher (T. p. leucogaster) – (Swainson, 1838): Originally described as a separate species. Breeds in the western Tian Shan, in Afghanistan, in the north of Pakistan, in northwestern and central India, in Nepal’s western and central regions; populations occurring in the east of Pakistan and in the south of India migrate towards the foothills of the Himalayas in spring for breeding.[7]
  • T. p. paradisi(Linnaeus, 1758): breeds in central and southern India, central Bangladesh and south-western Myanmar; populations occurring in Sri Lanka in the winter season are non-breeding.[7]
  • Ceylon paradise flycatcher (T. p. ceylonensis) – (Zarudny & Harms, 1912): found in Sri Lanka.


Female Indian Paradise flycatcher in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Chandrapur, Maharashtra, guarding its nest on a bamboo twig.

Adult Indian paradise flycatchers are 19–22 cm (7.5–8.7 in) long. Their heads are glossy black with a black crown and crest, their black bill round and sturdy, their eyes black. Female are rufous on the back with a greyish throat and underparts. Their wings are 86–92 mm (3.4–3.6 in) long. Young males look very much like females but have a black throat and blue-ringed eyes. As adults they develop up to 24 cm (9.4 in) long tail feathers with two central tail feathers growing up to 30 cm (12 in) long drooping streamers.

Young males are rufous and have short tails. They acquire long tails in their second or third year. Adult males are either predominantly bright rufous above or predominantly white. Some specimens show some degree of intermediacy between rufous and white. Long-tailed rufous birds are generally devoid of shaft streaks on the wing and tail feathers, while in white birds the shaft streaks, and sometimes the edges of the wing and tail feathers are black.[2]

In the early 1960s, 680 long-tailed males were examined that are contained in collections of the British Museum of Natural History, Chicago Natural History Museum, Peabody Museum, Carnegie Museum, American Museum of Natural History, United States National Museum and Royal Ontario Museum. The specimens came from almost the entire range of the species, though some areas were poorly represented. The relative frequency of the rufous and white plumage types varies geographically. Rufous birds are rare in the extreme southeastern part of the species' range. Throughout the Indian area and, to a lesser extent, in China, asymmetrically patterned intermediates occur. Intermediates are rare or absent throughout the rest of the range of the species. In general, long-tailed males are[2]

  • predominantly rufous with some white in wings and tail — collected in Turkestan, Kashmir, northern India, Punjab, Maharashtra, Sikkim and in Sri Lanka;
  • predominantly rufous with some white in wings — collected in Iran, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Kashmir, northern and central India, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar, Nepal;
  • predominantly rufous with some white in tail — collected in Punjab, northern and central India, Kolkata, Sri Lanka and in the Upper Yangtze Valley in China;
  • predominantly white with some rufous in tail and wings — collected in Kashmir, Maharashtra, Sichuan and North China;
  • predominantly white with some rufous in tail — collected in Maharashtra and Fuzhou, China;
  • predominantly white with back partly rufous — collected in Punjab and Chennai;
  • moulting from rufous into white plumage — collected in North Bihar.

Possible interpretations of this phenomenon are : males may be polymorphic for rufous and white plumage colour; rufous birds may be sub-adults; and there may even be two sympatric species distinguishable only in the male.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

They are migratory and spend the winter season in tropical Asia. There are resident populations in southern India and Sri Lanka, hence both visiting migrants and the locally breeding subspecies occur in these areas in winter.[8][9]

According to Linné’s first description Indian paradise flycatchers were only distributed in India.[3] Later ornithologists observed this spectacular bird in other areas, and based on differences in plumage of males described several subspecies.

Adult male T.p. leucogaster in Pannipitiya, Sri Lanka.
Sub-adult male T.p. leucogaster in Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan

Indian paradise flycatchers inhabit thick forests and well-wooded habitats from Central Asia to south-eastern China, all over India and Sri Lanka to Myanmar.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

Female leucogaster on nest
Sub-adult male on nest in Andhra Pradesh, India

Indian paradise flycatchers are noisy birds uttering sharp skreek calls. They have short legs and sit very upright whilst perched prominently, like a shrike. They are insectivorous and hunt in flight in the understorey. In the afternoons they dive from perches to bathe in small pools of water.

The breeding season lasts from May to July.[10] Being socially monogamous both male and female take part in nest-building, incubation, brooding and feeding of the young. The incubation period lasts 14 to 16 days and the nestling period 9 to 12 days.[11] Three or four eggs are laid in a neat cup nest made with twigs and spider webs on the end of a low branch.[7] The nest is sometimes built in the vicinity of a breeding pair of drongos, which keep predators away. Chicks hatch in about 21 to 23 days.[12] A case of interspecific feeding has been noted with paradise flycatcher chicks fed by Oriental white-eyes.[13]

Selected photos[edit]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Terpsiphone paradisi". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T103715992A119299885. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T103715992A119299885.en.
  2. ^ a b c d Owen, D. F. (1963). "The rufous and white forms of an Asiatic paradise flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi" (PDF). Ardea. 51: 230–236. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-24.
  3. ^ a b Linnæus, C. (1758). Caroli Linnæi Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiæ, Impensis Direct. Laurentii Salvii
  4. ^ Pasquet, É.; Cibois, A.; Baillon, F.; Érard, C. (2002). "What are African monarchs (Aves, Passeriformes)? A phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial genes". Comptes Rendus Biologies. 325 (2): 107–118. doi:10.1016/S1631-0691(02)01409-9. PMID 11980172.
  5. ^ Lei Xin; Lian Zhen-Min; Lei Fu-Min; Yin Zuo-Hua; Zhao Hong-Feng (2007). "Phylogeny of some Muscicapinae birds based on cyt b mitochondrial gene sequences". Acta Zoologica Sinica. 53 (1): 95.
  6. ^ a b Gill, F. B.; D. B. Donsker (eds.). "IOC World Bird". IOC World Bird List. doi:10.14344/
  7. ^ a b c Rasmussen, P.C.; Anderton, J.C. (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Vol.2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions. pp. 332–333.
  8. ^ Whistler, H. (1933). "The migration of the Paradise Flycatcher, (Tchitrea paradisi)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 36 (2): 498–499.
  9. ^ Bates, R.S.P. (1932). "Migration of the Paradise Flycatcher Tchitrea paradisi". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 35 (4): 896–897.
  10. ^ Hume, A.O. (1890). The nests and eggs of Indian birds. Volume 2. R. H. Porter, London. pp. 22–26.
  11. ^ Mizuta, Taku; Satoshi Yamagishi (1998). "Breeding biology of monogamous Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi (Aves: Monarchinae): A special reference to colour dimorphism and exaggerated long tails in male" (PDF). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 46 (1): 101–112.
  12. ^ Rashid, SMA; Khan, A.; Ahmed, R. (1989). "Some observations on the breeding of Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi (Linnaeus) (Monarchinae)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86 (1): 103–105.
  13. ^ Tehsin, R.H.; Tehsin, H. (1998). "White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosa) feeding the chicks of Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 95 (2): 348.

Further reading[edit]

  • Andersen, M.J.; Hoster, P.A.; Filardi, C.E.; Moyle, R.G. (2015). "Phylogeny of the monarch flycatchers reveals extensive paraphyly and novel relationships within a major Australo-Pacific radiation". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 67: 336–347. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2014.11.010.
  • Fabre, P.H.; Irestedt, M.; Fjeldså, J.; Bristol, R.; Groombridge, J.J.; Irham, M.; Jønsson, K.A. (2012). "Dynamic colonization exchanges between continents and islands drive diversification in paradise-flycatchers (Terpsiphone, Monarchidae)". Journal of Biogeography. 39: 1900–1918. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2012.02744.x.
  • Lewis, W.A.S. (1942) The Asian Paradise Flycatcher Tchitrea paradisi paradisi (Linn.). Some notes on a colony breeding near Calcutta. Journal of the Bengal Natural History Society 17 (1): 1–8.
  • Inglis, C.M. (1942) The Asian Paradise Flycatcher Tchitrea paradisi paradisi (Linn.). Journal of the Bengal Natural History Society 17 (2): 50–52.
  • Salomonsen, F. (1933). "Revision of the group Tchitrea affinis Blyth". Ibis. 75 (4): 730–745. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1933.tb03360.x.

External links[edit]