The painted berrypeckers, Paramythiidae, are a very small bird family restricted to the mountain forests of New Guinea. The family comprises two species in two genera: the Tit Berrypecker (Oreocharis arfaki) and the Crested Berrypecker (Paramythia montium). These are colourful medium-sized birds which feed on fruit and some insects. These species were formerly included in the Dicaeidae, but DNA-DNA hybridization studies showed these species were related to each other but distinct from the flowerpeckers.
The painted berrypeckers are small to medium sized passerine birds. The smaller species, the Tit Berrypecker, ranges from 12–14 cm in length and weighs around 17–21 g. The larger Crested Berrypecker is 19–22 cm in length and weighs 36–61 g. The variation in size in the Crested Berrypecker is due to differences in altitude (Rapoport's rule), with birds being larger at higher altitudes. Both species have short necks, moderately long and broad rounded wings, and plump bodies. The tails vary between the two species, with the Tit Berrypecker having a short square one and that of the Crested Berrypecker being longish. In both species the short bill is strong and black.
The plumage of both species is soft, downy and brightly coloured. In both species the backs and wings are green and the tail is blue-grey. In the Tit Berrypecker the plumage is sexually dimorphic, with the male having bright yellow patches on the face, wing and chest but the female being overall duller. Both sexes of the Crested Berrypecker are similar, but the species exhibits instead some variation between two subspecies. The plumages of the juveniles resemble the female in the case of the Tit Berrypecker and dull adults in the case of the Crested Berryecker. The Crested Berrypecker has, as suggested by the name, an erectile crest. Both species have unique filoplumes (hairlike feathers) on the flanks that are not visible in the field and the function of which is unknown.
Distribution and habitat
Both species of painted berrypecker are endemic to the islands of New Guinea, one of two families to be restricted to the island (the other being the berrypeckers and longbills). Both species are restricted to montane areas, usually above 2200 m, though the Tit Berrypecker does occur as far down as 850 on occasions, and that species has a generally lower distribution than the Crested Berrypecker. Both species are arboreal birds of montane forest, particularly mossy forest. At higher altitudes the Crested Berrypecker will also inhabit stunted alpine forest and alpine thickets. It is unknown if the two species make any migratory movements, although it has been suggested that the Tit Berrypecker may be partly nomadic.
The painted berrypeckers are common, active, and diurnal birds. They usually occur in pairs or in small groups, up to 30 Tit Berrypeckers or 10 Crested Berrypeckers. The Crested Berrypecker flocks are occasionally joined by mixed-species feeding flocks of insectivorous birds such as fantails, honeyeaters and the Blue-capped Ifrita, and Tit Berrypeckers often join other bird species such as honeyeaters and birds of paradise in feeding trees.
As far as is known, the painted berrypeckers are almost entirely frugivorous. Small fruits and berries comprise the biggest part of the diet, although the Tit Berrypecker has also been recorded eating small flowers. The Crested Berrypecker has also been observed to occasionally eat insects, and insects as well as fruit comprise the diet of nestlings.
The breeding behaviour of both painted berrypeckers is poorly known. Both species are monogamous, and are thought to be seasonal, with the Tit Berrypecker apparently nesting in the tail end of the dry season and early wet season. The Crested Berrypecker breeds from August to February. The nests of both species are open cups built from moss. Beyond that nothing is known of the Tit Berrypecker. In the Crested Berrypecker the female alone incubates the eggs, with the incubation period lasting for over 12 days. Upon hatching both parents feed the chick and remove the faecal sacs.
Relationship with humans
The painted berrypeckers have limited interactions with humans. Like many New Guinean birds they are hunted opportunistically for food, but in spite of their bright plumage they are not targeted for their feathers in the same fashion as birds of paradise. If they have any cultural importance to the tribes of New Guinea at present this has not been documented. They are however sought out by birdwatchers, particularly the Crested Berrypecker, and as such have a small role in ecotourism.
Neither species is considered to be threatened by the IUCN. Both species are common within their ranges and while some of their montane habitat has been cleared for agriculture large areas remain intact.
1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Coates, Brian (2008), "Family Paramythiidae (Painted berrypeckers)", in Josep, del Hoyo; Andrew, Elliott; David, Christie, Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13, Penduline-tits to Shrikes, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 340–349, ISBN 978-84-96553-45-3
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