Yellow chat

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Yellow chat
Yelllow Chat (Epthianura crocea).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Epthianura
Species: E. crocea
Binomial name
Epthianura crocea
Castelnau & Ramsay, 1877

The yellow chat (Epthianura crocea) is a small passerine bird endemic to Australia.[2] They are known for their remarkable adaptions that aid their survival in their arid habitat.[3]

Taxonomy[edit]

The yellow chat is a Passeriform in the family Meliphagidae.[4] They were formally considered a separate family (Epthianuridae) until the discovery of their brush tongue[5] and results from a DNA analysis led to their classification as honeyeaters in the Meliphagidae family.[6] They are one of four species in the Epthianura genus, with the other three being the crimson chat (Epthianura tricolor), the orange chat (Epthianura aurifrons) and the white-fronted chat (Epthianura albifrons).[7]

Four subspecies of Epthianura crocea were initially identified,[8] however only three are currently recognised. These subspecies are primarily distinguished by their morphological variances in the adult males breeding plumages.[9]

  • Epthianura crocea crocea

Found in the Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Lake Eyre Basin.[10]

  • Epthianura crocea tunneyi

Restricted to a small area in the floodplains from the Adelaide River to the East Alligator River.[11]

  • Epthianura crocea macgregori

Also known as the Capricorn yellow chat; occurs in the coastal region of central Queensland. This subspecies is considered critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.[12]

Description[edit]

The yellow chat is a small passerine bird usually seen in groups of 2-10 individuals.[13] They are approximately 11 cm tall and weighing 9g.[14] They are sexually dimorphic with the adult male having a bright golden-yellow forehead and underparts with a prominent black crescent breast band.[15] The crown and nape are a grey-olive colour, the back is yellowish-brown and the tail is black with yellow tips on the feathers.[16] The female is of similar colouring to the male but with a paler yellow colour and with no breast band.[17] The juveniles are distinguished by being more greyish-brown in colour than the yellow displayed by their parents.[18] All yellow chats, including juveniles, have a distinctive yellow rump when in flight.[19] They have relatively long legs and toes, allowing them to forage with ease for food over low vegetation and on the ground.[20] Yellow chats can also be identified by their distinctive, high-pitched and tuneful ‘pee pee’ call.[21]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The yellow chat occurs patchily throughout northern Australia, ranging from the arid zone north-east of South Australia and south-west of Queensland to north-west Northern Territory. There are some isolated populations in eastern Queensland and in north-west Western Australia.[22] Their habitat consists of high temperatures for most of the year and contains marshy plains vegetated with saltbush, rank grasses or cumbungi reeds.[23][24] These marshes have been formed by marine lagoons or inland artesian bore drains, creating a saline environment.[25] This distribution includes the central arid region and hot, subhumid monsoonal region. Most of the annual rainfall falls during the summer monsoon, leaving the remaining six months of the year with little rainfall.[26]

Diet[edit]

The yellow chat is a predominately insectivorous bird.[27] They scavenge for their food in damp substrates, low vegetation or in shallow water.[28]

Reproduction[edit]

Epthianura crocea crocea eggs

Breeding season for the yellow chat has been observed to be between November to January after sufficient rain has fallen.[29][30] Upon the beginning of the breeding season the flocks disperse and male-female pairs form. The male follows his mate until egg-laying commences.[31] The male defends their breeding territory by bill clicking and chasing intruders.[32] The female builds the nest close to the ground in small shrubs, usually samphire (Chenopodiaceae) or in dense grass.[33] The nests are made from vegetation such as fine twigs, rootlets and grasses. The inside of the cup is lined with hair, usually horse or cow, and fine grasses.[34] The female lays a clutch of three white to pinkish-white eggs marked with some reddish-brown splotches.[35] Incubation of the eggs is approximately two weeks and alternates between the male and female.[36]

Arid zone adaptations[edit]

It has been anticipated that yellow chats would encounter problems living in their harsh arid environment with high ambient temperatures, low ambient humidities and small amounts of surface water.[37] It has been predicted that birds with small body weights have high metabolic rates.[38] Furthermore, small body weights will also lead to a higher rate of evaporative water loss compared to larger birds.[39] These predictions suggest that the small body size of the yellow chats combined with their hot, dry, arid environment will result in heat stress and a high loss of water. This could be detrimental in their habitat where water is scarce.[40]

Despite these predictions yellow chats are able to prosper in their hot arid habitat. Studies have found that the physiology of the yellow chats differs from other species of passerines with adaptations to help them cope with the challenging environment.[41] Studies have shown that they are able to reduce their metabolic rate and evaporative water loss.[42] The metabolic rate is mostly controlled by the concentration of thyroid hormone.[43] Yellow chats have adapted to have lower levels of this hormone circulating in their body, resulting in a lower metabolism.[44] This adaptation enables them to thrive in their harsh hot and dry environment.

Another suggested adaptation to help yellow chats survive in the arid region is their brush tongue. The brush tongue may be an adaptation to aid in retrieving drinking water.[45] It allows the birds access to dew and the capability to drink thin water films, such as water seepages on surfaces of plants.[46] Furthermore, the colour of their plumage is an adaptation aiding in their thermoregulation. Black pigments have been observed to increase heat absorption, with lighter colours absorbing less heat.[47] This suggests that the yellow colouring of the yellow chats is an adaptation to reduce the amount of heat absorbed in their body.[48]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Epthianura crocea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Houston, W., Porter, G., O’Neill, P., and Elder, R. (2004). The ecology of the critically endangered yellow chat Epthianura crocea macgregori on Curtis Island. The Sunbird 34: 10-24.
  3. ^ Williams, C.K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): seasonal movements, metabolism and evaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24: 397-416.
  4. ^ Christidis, L., Schodde, R., and Robinson, N. A. (1993). Affinities of the Aberrant Australo-Papuan Honeyeaters, Toxorhamphus, Oedistoma, Timeliopsis and Epthianura-Protein Evidence. Australian Journal of Zoology 41(5): 423-432.
  5. ^ Christidis, L., Schodde, R., and Robinson, N. A. (1993). Affinities of the Aberrant Australo-Papuan Honeyeaters, Toxorhamphus, Oedistoma, Timeliopsis and Epthianura-Protein Evidence. Australian Journal of Zoology 41(5): 423-432.
  6. ^ Houston, W. (2011) Distribution, breeding ecology, population and habitat use of the critically endangered Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori Keast (Aves: Meliphagidae). Doctoral dissertation, Centre for Environmental Management, Central Queensland University.
  7. ^ Christidis, L. and Boles, W. E. (2008). Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia
  8. ^ Keast, A. (1958). The relationship between seasonal movements and the development of geographic variation in the Australian Chats, (Epthianura Gould and Ashbyia North (Passeres: Muscicapidae, Malurinae)). Australian Journal of Zoology 6: 53-68.
  9. ^ Houston, W. (2011) Distribution, breeding ecology, population and habitat use of the critically endangered Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori Keast (Aves: Meliphagidae). Doctoral dissertation, Centre for Environmental Management, Central Queensland University.
  10. ^ Jaensch, R., Houston, W., Black, R., Campbell, L., McCabe, J., Elder, R., and Porter, G. (2004). Rediscovery of the Capricorn subspecies of yellow chat ‘Epthianura crocea macgregori' at Torilla Plain, on the mainland coast of central Queensland. The Sunbird 34: 24-36.
  11. ^ Schoddle, R. and Mason, I. J. (1999). The directory of Australian birds: passerines. CSIRO, Melbourne.
  12. ^ Jaensch, R., Houston, W., Black, R., Campbell, L., McCabe, J., Elder, R., and Porter, G. (2004). Rediscovery of the Capricorn subspecies of yellow chat ‘Epthianura crocea macgregori' at Torilla Plain, on the mainland coast of central Queensland. The Sunbird 34: 24-36.
  13. ^ Jaensch, R. (2004). Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea in natural wetlands of the Georgina and Diamantina channel country. The Sunbird 34(2): 58-66.
  14. ^ Houston, W., Porter, G., O’Neill, P., and Elder, R. (2004). The ecology of the critically endangered yellow chat Epthianura crocea macgregori on Curtis Island. The Sunbird 34: 10-24.
  15. ^ Flegg, J. (2002). Photographic field guide: birds of Australia. New Holland, Frenchs Forest, NSW.
  16. ^ Flegg, J. (2002). Photographic field guide: birds of Australia. New Holland, Frenchs Forest, NSW.
  17. ^ Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. (2000). Field guide to the birds of Australia. Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney, NSW.
  18. ^ Jaensch, R., Houston, W., Black, R., Campbell, L., McCabe, J., Elder, R., and Porter, G. (2004). Rediscovery of the Capricorn subspecies of yellow chat ‘Epthianura crocea macgregori' at Torilla Plain, on the mainland coast of central Queensland. The Sunbird 34: 24-36.
  19. ^ Houston, W. (2011) Distribution, breeding ecology, population and habitat use of the critically endangered Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori Keast (Aves: Meliphagidae). Doctoral dissertation, Centre for Environmental Management, Central Queensland University.
  20. ^ Houston, W. (2011) Distribution, breeding ecology, population and habitat use of the critically endangered Capricorn Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea macgregori Keast (Aves: Meliphagidae). Doctoral dissertation, Centre for Environmental Management, Central Queensland University.
  21. ^ Jaensch, R., Pedler, L., Carpenter, G., and Black, A. (2013). Records of the golden-headed cisticola, yellow chat, tawny grassbird and eastern grass owl in the channel country following several wet years. The Sunbird 43: 1-11.
  22. ^ Beruldsen, G. (2003). Australian birds: their nests and eggs. Phoenix Offset, China.
  23. ^ Williams, C. K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian chats (Epthianura Gould) season movements, metabolism and ecaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24(3): 397-416.
  24. ^ Keast, A. (1958). The relationship between seasonal movements and the development of geographic variation in the Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould and Ashbyia North (Passeres: Musciapidae, Malurinae)). Australian Journal of Zoology 6: 53-6.
  25. ^ Williams, C. K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian chats (Epthianura Gould) season movements, metabolism and ecaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24(3): 397-416.
  26. ^ Williams, C.K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): seasonal movements, metabolism and evaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24: 397-416.
  27. ^ Houston, W., Porter, G., O’Neill, P., and Elder, R. (2004). The ecology of the critically endangered yellow chat Epthianura crocea macgregori on Curtis Island. The Sunbird 34: 10-24.
  28. ^ Houston, W., Porter, G., Elder, R., Black, R., and Sheaves, M. (2004). Rediscovery of yellow chats (Capricorn subspecies) on the Fitzroy River delta central Queensland. The Sunbird 34: 36-42.
  29. ^ Reynolds, I. S., Walter, J. C., and Woodall, P. F. (1982). Observations on yellow chats' Ephthianura crocea'in western Queensland. The Sunbird 12: 21-30.
  30. ^ Reynolds, I. S., Walter, J. C., and Woodall, P. F. (1982). Observations on yellow chats' Ephthianura crocea'in western Queensland. The Sunbird 12: 21-30.
  31. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian chats (Epthianura Gould): Reproduction in Aridity. Australian Journal of Zoology 27: 213-229.
  32. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian chats (Epthianura Gould): Reproduction in Aridity. Australian Journal of Zoology 27: 213-229.
  33. ^ Beruldsen, G. (2003). Australian birds: their nests and eggs. Phoenix Offset, China.
  34. ^ Beruldsen, G. (2003). Australian birds: their nests and eggs. Phoenix Offset, China.
  35. ^ Beruldsen, G. (2003). Australian birds: their nests and eggs. Phoenix Offset, China.
  36. ^ Jaensch, R., Houston, W., Black, R., Campbell, L., McCabe, J., Elder, R., and Porter, G. (2004). Rediscovery of the Capricorn subspecies of yellow chat ‘Epthianura crocea macgregori' at Torilla Plain, on the mainland coast of central Queensland. The Sunbird 34: 24-36.
  37. ^ Williams, C.K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): seasonal movements, metabolism and evaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24: 397-416.
  38. ^ Lasiewski, R. C., and Dawson, W. R. (1967). A re-examination of the relation between standard metabolic rate and body weight in birds. Condor 13-23.
  39. ^ Crawford, E. C., and Lasiewski, R. C. (1968). Oxygen consumption and respiratory evaporation of the emu and rhea. Condor 333-339.
  40. ^ Williams, C.K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): seasonal movements, metabolism and evaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24: 397-416.
  41. ^ Williams, C.K. and Main, A. R. (1976). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): seasonal movements, metabolism and evaporative water loss. Australian Journal of Zoology 24: 397-416.
  42. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): reproduction in aridity. Australian Journal Zoology 27: 213-229.
  43. ^ Collins, K.J. and Weiner, J. S. (1968). Endocrinological aspects of exposure to high environmental temperatures. Physiological Review 48: 785-839.
  44. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): reproduction in aridity. Australian Journal Zoology 27: 213-229.
  45. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): reproduction in aridity. Australian Journal Zoology 27: 213-229.
  46. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): reproduction in aridity. Australian Journal Zoology 27: 213-229.
  47. ^ Margalida, A., Negro, J. J., and Galván, I. (2008). Melanin-based color variation in the bearded vulture suggests a thermoregulatory function. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 149: 87-91.
  48. ^ Williams, C. K. (1979). Ecology of Australian Chats (Epthianura Gould): reproduction in aridity. Australian Journal Zoology 27: 213-229.