Birds of the World – Hyliota

Violet-backed Hyliota (Hyliota violacea) ©WikiC

Violet-backed Hyliota (Hyliota violacea) ©WikiC

While working on the update to the IOC Version 2.10, I noticed that of the 233 pages for the Families of Birds of the World, I do not have a photo for the top of the Family page of the Hyliota – Hyliotas Family. I have written all of my great photographers and videographers to see if they have a photo. So far, none has sent me one that I can use with permission. I have written several others who have photos on the internet, but so far no permission there either. (Update 11/5/11 Just got permission from Dave Appleton to use his Southern Hyliota. The Family page now has a picture at the top. Thanks Dave.)

I can link to photos on other sites, but to put that photo here, I need permission.

If this bird is so rare, then what is it? My curiosity has taken over and while awaiting a photo, decided to find out about those 4 birds. Here are some of those findings:

Genus Hyliota – hyliotas. Basal Passerida with no known relatives, perhaps somewhat closer to Promeropidae (sugarbirds) (from Internet)

  • Yellow-bellied (Hyliota flavigaster)
  • Southern Hyliota (Hyliota australis)
  • Usambara Hyliota (Hyliota usambarae)
  • Violet-backed Hyliota (Hyliota violacea)
Southern Hyliota (Hyliota australis) © by DaveAppleton

Southern Hyliota (Hyliota australis) © by DaveAppleton

None of the books I own, which cover birds around the world, mention the Hyliota. Humm!

This is the total of Wikipedia’s articles on the family:
Hyliota is a genus of passerine bird. Formerly regarded as Old World warblers in the Sylviidae family, they are now often regarded as a family in their own right, the Hyliotidae.” Humm! Not much there.
Let’s see what it says about the individual birds in the family:

The Southern Hyliota (Hyliota australis) is a species of Old World warbler in the Sylviidae family. It is found in Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and dry savanna. (No photo)
The Yellow-Bellied Hyliota (Hyliota flavigaster) is a species of Old World warbler in the Sylviidae family. It is found in Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry forests. (No photo)
The Usambara Hyliota (Hyliota usambara) is a species of Old World warbler in the Sylviidae family. It is found only in Tanzania.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montanes, and plantations. It is threatened by habitat loss. (No Photo)
The Violet-Backed Hyliota (Hyliota violacea) is a species of Old World warbler in the Sylviidae family. It is found in Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. (No photo, but they have a drawing. Aha!)

According to the IOC website, where the IOC Version 2.10 comes from:

“Move Hyliotas from the Sylviidae to their own family Hyliotidae, a basal lineage of the Passerida without known modern relatives ”

They are now in their own Hyliota – Hyliotidae Family. They placed them in the taxonomy between the Goldcrests, kinglets – Regulidae Family and the Wrens – Troglodytidae Family.

From the Internet Bird Collection (IBC), which still has the Hyliotas in the Sylviidae Family,:
“Genus has in the past been placed variously with the Old World flycatchers (in family Muscicapidae), with the monarch-flycatchers (Monarchidae) or with the batises and wattle-eyes (Platysteiridae); although plumage resembles that of some muscicapid flycatchers of genus Ficedula, and nest is like that of platysteirids, the nestling mouth spots, the unspotted juvenile plumage and behaviour are all typical of present family. Proposed race marginalis (S Tanzania and Mozambique) considered inseparable from barbozae. Two subspecies recognized.” That quote was put by all four species of Hyliotas. Seems no one knows exactly where they belong.

They have one photo for the Yellow-bellied Hyliota (Hyliota flavigaster flavigaster) and the Violet-backed Hyliota (Hyliota violacea) has  4 video available to view.

Here is the best photo on the internet that I can find of the Southern Hyliota.

Seems to be a bit of a mystery bird. So little is said about it on the internet and so few pictures of them are available. When their DNA was tested after trying to figure out where to place it, here is the abstract from the US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health:


The African genus Hyliota includes three or four species of warbler-like birds of uncertain phylogenetic affinities, as it has historically been placed in different avian families that are now known to represent unrelated lineages: Malaconotidae (bush-shrikes), Platysteiridae (batises and wattle-eyes), Muscicapidae (Old World flycatchers) and Sylviidae (Old-World Warblers). To assess the affinities of Hyliota we sequenced a mitochondrial protein-coding gene (ND2, 1018bp) and a nuclear intron (myoglobin intron-2, 685bp). Our analyses suggest that all previous hypotheses concerning the affinities of Hyliota are erroneous. Instead, Hyliota represents a basal branch in the Passerida radiation with no close relatives. Our results, which also include analyses of relationships among other of other atypical songbird genera, lend support to an African origin of the Passerida songbird radiation.” (Italics mine)

One thing is for sure, the Lord knows all about them since He created them. Maybe they are a “kind” of their own.

So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21 NKJV)
I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. (Psalms 50:11 NKJV)


This page will be updated, if and when photos are made available. If anyone has a photo of any of these birds and would be willing to give permission for it to be used, please leave a comment.

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