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Actinodura, {Barwings}, and Actitis, Birds of the World. A-Z of bird genera, part-7

Updated on October 31, 2015

Rusty fronted barwing.

Fumbong Lho Wildlife sanctuary ,India
Fumbong Lho Wildlife sanctuary ,India | Source


In this series A-Z of Bird genera,we review the species that occur in the various and numerous genera. The birds that feature in this series belong to all parts of the world. Here in this article we review a selection of birds that occur in the genera Actinodura and Actitsis.

The genus Actinodura, consists of a group of birds commonly referred to as the Barwings,that occur in the family Leiothrichidae. They are Passerine {perching birds} ,that occur in the hills of southern Asia,from India to China and Tawain. We commence with the Rusty fronted Barwing. {Pictured above}.

Illustration of Actinodura gertoni

Illustration from a book by John Gould
Illustration from a book by John Gould | Source

The Rusty fronted Barwing

Actinodura egertoni, is the Rusty fronted Barwing a species found in China, Bhutan,India,Myanmar and Nepal. It is encountered in the temperate forests and moist mountain regions,and is referred to as the 'Himalyan Barwing'.or the 'Nepal Barwing'. It is a bird about nine inches long with a relatively long tail. It is an unstreaked Barwing.

The bird has a dark chestnut forehead,face and chin,and greyish ear coverts. The bill is pinkish,darker at the tips. Below they are a light rufous colour with no streaks. The wings are barred as the common nmae suggests,but with almost plain rufous chestnut bases at the primary feathers. They have a long tail which lacks the barring.

Outside the breeding season they may be encountered in small groups of between half a dozen and a dozen birds,sometimes more. Their diet consists of insects,but they will also take berries and seeds. They tend to forage in the middle storey but also in the canopy of forests.

The breeding season generally commences from April until July. The nest is a cup-shaped structure fairly deep,made from Bamboo,grasses and moss. It is generally located in Bamboo clumps,saplings or bushes from three to twenty feet above the ground. The female will deposit two to four eggs. It is not a bird of current conservation concern.

Spectacled Barwing

Taken at Chiang Mai Thailand.
Taken at Chiang Mai Thailand. | Source

Spectacled Barwing

Uploaded to Commons by Ariefrahmann
Uploaded to Commons by Ariefrahmann | Source

The Spectacled Barwing.

Actinodura ramsayi, is the Spectacled Barwing ,commonly referred to as Ramsay's Barwing. It is about nine and a half inches long, with a long tail. They have a bold white eye ring from which they take their common name of Spectacled Barwing. They are densely barred on the wing and tail. The under parts are pale buff. The nape is grey as are the ear coverts. The crown and mantle greyish in the nominate species tending to be more rufous in the sub-species Actinodura ramseyi yunnanensis.The two sexes are similar in plumage and can not be told apart in the field.

These birds frequent moist,mountainous country where secondary growth,scrub,grass and bamboo are present. Up to 2,5000 m, but locally lower It is presumed that they feed on a diet of insects and some vegetable matter. They are usually encountered in small groups or in pairs. They also associate with other species.

The breeding season is from March to April,the nest is a cup-shaped structure composed of roots,and generally located in half dried creepers above rocks or ledges. However, other kinds of structure types have been recorded in different locations. The female lays two eggs.

There are three sub species recognized.Actinodura ramsayi ramsayi, in south-east Burma and north west Thailand.A.raamsayi radcliffei, of east and central Burma. and A.ramsayi yunnenensis, in south China and North Vietnam. It is thought the birds in north Thailand and Laos,probably represent a fourth sub-species which is not yet fully recognized or described.

Black-headed Barwing

This species was only described as recently as 1999. The Black-headed barwing ,Actinodura sodangorum,is a native of Laos and Vietnam,where it is found in sub-tropical and tropical, high altitudes,shrub land,grass land and plantations.

It is about nine and a half inches long and is another relatively long-tailed Barwing, with a grey head and dark crown. This species too, has a bold white eye ring. The tail finely barred with black. The under parts are a rufous colour with dark throat streaks. The primary feathers are barred like the tail,the wings are very dark. Both sexes are similar. It is very similar to the previous species,however, the largely black wing,throat streaks,dark crown and more heavily barred tail differentiates the two species. They have a very restricted range and are very local. They are classed as being Near Threatened/Vulnerable.

Hoary throated Barwing

Taken in Bhutan
Taken in Bhutan | Source

Illustration of the Hoary throated Barwing

Birds of Asia,John Gould.
Birds of Asia,John Gould. | Source

Hoary-throated Barwing.

Actinodura nipalensis,is the Hoary-throated Barwing, a species found in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent,primarily in the eastern Himalayas,and they range across Bhutan,India,Tibet and Nepal. They are birds of tropical and sub-tropical,mountainous, moist forests.

It is a species about eight and a quarter inches long,and a medium sized Barwing. It has strikingly long crown feathers creating a dark floppy crest with pale shaft streaks. The wings and tail have black and tan bars. The throat is pale grey as is the upper breast. There is also a broad black moustache. The mantle and scapulars have diffuse dark streaks. The sexes are similar and can ot be told apart in the field.

Hybrids sometimes occur and these are sometimes placed in the genus Ixops.

These birds are found in oak forest,mixed oak forests,conifer and rhododendron forests,generally with plenty of under growth.They occur at altitudes of between 1830-3500 m, however, during the winter they may be encountered at lower elevations. They feed on beetles,caterpillars and other invertebrates,they also supplement their diet with berries,flowers and seeds. They forage in the upper branches of middle-sized trees.

The breeding season commences in April until June.The female lays two eggs. It is not a species of current conservation concern.

Streak throated Barwing.

Mishmi Hills,Arunachal, Pradesh,India.
Mishmi Hills,Arunachal, Pradesh,India. | Source

Streak throated Barwing

Actinodura waldeni, is the Streak-throated Barwing. A bird that is native to China,India and Myanmar,where it is encountered in the moist mountainous, sub-tropical and tropical forests. This species is about eight and a quarter to eight and a half inches long. They have black and tan barring on the wings and tail and indistinct grey-brown streaks on the throat and breast. The fringes of the crest are pale grey. The head itself is a greyish colour,the under parts are rufous. The sexes are similar.

It is very similar to the previous species but the former has a broad moustache and no streaks on the throat and breast. These birds like mossy evergreen forests,mixed forests,often where Bamboo occurs,up to the altitude of between 1700-3300 metres. They feed on insects, molluscs and fruit from the middle storey,clambering around mossy tree trunks pulling away the moss in search of morsels.

Little is known about their breeding behaviour. There are four sub species-Actinoduro waldeni waldeni, found in India and adjacent North Burma. A.waldeni daflaensis, found in west Burma. A.waldeni poliotis, found in west Burma. and A.waldeni saturatior, found in north Burma and Yunnan {China}.

This species has been considered a conspecific with the Hoary Throated Barwing. Hybrids are known to occur and are sometimes placed in the genus Ixops.

The Streaked Barwing,Actinodura souliei,is a bird of China and Vietnam.

The Taiwan Barwing,Actinodura morrisoniana,also referred to as the Formosa Barwing,is found in China and Taiwan,there are no current conservation concerns over these species.

Formosan Barwing. {Taiwan Barwing}


Common Sandpiper


Common Sandpiper, clearly showing the white underparts

Isle of Skye Scotland.
Isle of Skye Scotland. | Source

Common Sandpiper


The genus Actitis

The genus Actitis is a small genus consisting of just two species. The Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularis, and the Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos. We commence with the common Sandpiper.

The common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, {formerly Tringa hypoleucos} is a small wading bird native to Eurasia it is up to eight inches long, short-legged ,with a relatively straight bill,but with a somewhat drab plumage. The head and upper breast and upper parts are greenish brown with delicate dark streaking,contrasting with the white under parts,which gave the rise to the birds specific name of hypoleucos from the Greek hypo indicating beneath and leucos meaning white.

They have a white eye ring which is visible when close up and the legs are greenish grey. Its behaviour is described as 'teetering', the head and rear of the body are constantly bobbing up and down when the bird is standing or walking. It has a distinguished flight with rapid shallow wing beats on curved wings,and in flight a striking white wing bar is evident.

Outside the breeding season these birds are much duller in colour,with faintly barred olive-brown upper parts and less streaking on the head. The females are slightly larger than the males.

The breeding range of this species extends from Europe,east across central Asia,to Kamchatka, and Sakhalin,Russia and Japan. It is migratory ,with a wintering range extending from western Europe and Africa,through the Middle East and south Asia, to Indonesia and Australia. Some individuals are encountered outside their normal range in countries such as the USA,Iceland and New Zealand.

During the breeding season they commonly inhabit the edges of water bodies particularly the pebbly,sandy or rocky margins of rivers, ponds,lake-shores and estuaries and sheltered sea coasts. They often forage in grassland and dry meadows. In the winter they occur in a variety of habitats including inland wetlands. They nest in grassland near freshwater. There are no current conservation concerns with this species.

Spotted Sandpiper

Uploaded to Commons by Dolovis
Uploaded to Commons by Dolovis | Source

The Spotted Sandpiper.

The Spotted sandpiper, Actitis macularia { macularius} is a very similar species to the Common Sandpiper,however, the under parts which are white are heavily spotted. The two species replace each other geographically,the breeding habitat of these birds is near freshwater across most of Canada and the United States. They are only very rare migrants to western Europe.They migrate south to the southern United States and South America.

Like the previous species they are ground nesting birds. There are no current conservation concerns.

Spotted sandpiper

Transferred to Commons by Albert Herring.
Transferred to Commons by Albert Herring. | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, I love the Barwings they are are fascinating species. I thought you would be well acquainted with the Sandpipers. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Those barwings are certainly striking. I know those sandpipers!


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