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Aegithina, { Irora's }, Aegolius, { small owls } and Aegypius { Vulture } A-Z of Bird genera.

Updated on November 17, 2015

Common Iroa, Aegithina tiphia

Uploaded to Commons via Itshears.
Uploaded to Commons via Itshears. | Source


In this series A-Z of Bird genera we review the species which occur in specific genera. These birds occur all over the world and belong to a plethora of families. Each bird species in unique and fascinating in its behaviour and habitat and breeding habitat.

In this article we review some of the birds that occur in the genera, Aegithina, Aegolous and Aegypius. We commence with the genus Aegithina, a genus which contains the Iroa's a small genus of four species of Passerine birds found in India and south-east Asia. They belong to the subfamily known as the Aegithinidae. Formerly they were grouped with two other groups the 'Leaf birds' and the 'Fairy Bluebirds',in the genus Irenidae.

We start with the Common Iroa Aegithina tiphia.

Adult breeding male Aegithina tiphia

Singapore. | Source

Common Iora ,female at nest


Subspecies multicolor, calling

Rangareddy District Andhra Pradesh ,India.
Rangareddy District Andhra Pradesh ,India. | Source

The Common Iora.

The Common Iora,Aegithina tiphia,is a bird of about five and a quarter inches long,with a chunky form. The male has a mantle of a green colour { Subspecies 'multicolor' and 'humei' have black mantles} They have pale eyes and bright yellow under parts. The wings are black with a large white wing bar evident. The tail is black.

The female has dull olive-green upper parts and duller yellow under parts. Non breeding males have a similar plumage colour as the females.

These birds occur in India,southern China and Myanmar,through south east Asia and the Philippines,and they are common throughout most of their range. They frequent,open country, Mangroves,scrub,forested riverbank, plantations and even gardens. Generally they are found in lowlands,however, in the Himalayas they may be encountered altitudes up to 2000 metres. The forage usually in pairs in the tree canopy,where they glean insects from the foliage and branches.

In India they commence breeding during December until September. The nest is a smallish ,but deep cup structure located up to ten metres from the ground in atree. The female will deposit two to three eggs. It is a species that is often the victim of the Banded Bay Cuckoo.

It is often considered to conspecific with Marshall's Iora.There are eleven subspecies,recognized by most authorities,they are Aegithina tiphia multicolor, that occurs in Southern India and Sri lanka. A t deignani, which occurs on the Indian peninsular to northern Burma. A t humei,central India {south of the Ganges River }, A t tiphia north and central India. A t septentrionalis, occurs in Pakistan and north west India. At philpi,south west China to central Burma, northernThailand,Laos and northern Vietnam. A t cambodiana, occurs in Cambodia to south-east Thailand and southern Vietnam.

A t scapularis occurs in java and Bali. A t viridis of Sothern Borneo and A taeguanrmis of northern Borneo and adjacent northern islands and Palawan. There are no current conservation concerns over this species or its sub-species.

Marshall's Iora


Marshall's Iora Aegithina nigrolutea

Marshall's Iora, Aegithina nigrolutea is found in parts of India and Sri Lanka. As previously mentioned it was considered conspecific with the previous species and only recently been given the full species status.However, this is still disputed by some authorities who say it is only a variant of A.tiphia. This species has a very short wing and tail,along with a smaller and shorter bill than A tiphia. Confusingly there are several races of the common Iora as we have seen that have a similar appearance to this species.

It breeds from June until August and nests low down ,generally in bushes.

Green Iora Aegthina viridissima

Gathering nesting material
Gathering nesting material | Source

Green Iora. Aegthina viridissima

The Green Iora is a species found in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia,Myanmar,Singapore and Thailand, where it frequents the tropical and sub-tropical moist lowland forests or tropical mangrove forests.

The general plumage colour of this species as its common name suggests is a dark olive-green.There is a bright yellow eye ring and a clear yellow colouring on the central belly to the under tail coverts. The wings are black adorned with two white wing bars. The tail is black. They are about five inches long. The females are duller with a uniform olive green upper parts and also a green tail.

This species feeds on invertebrates and their larvae which it takes from the tree canopy. They often associate in mixed species flocks. The species is classified as Near threatened,due in the main, to habitat loss.. There are two sub species recognized. Aegthina viridissima viridissima through out most of its range, and A v thapsina which occurs on the Anambas islands {Indonesia}.

The Great Iora. Aegthina lafresnayei

The Great iroa, has the entire under parts bright yellow ,the fore head is yellow, fore-crown is black fringed with yellow it is about six inches long. It occurs in Cambodia,China, Laos,Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

They are also birds of sub-tropical or tropical moist lowland forests. There are no current conservation concerns.

Aegolius funereus.

Uploaded to  Creative Commons by Rex. Taken Amhersi Island ,Ontario, Canada
Uploaded to Creative Commons by Rex. Taken Amhersi Island ,Ontario, Canada | Source

The genus Aegolius

The genus Aegolius is a genus of small Owls,consisting of just four living species of the family Strigidae. We commence with the Boreal Owl , Aegolius funereus,also commonly referred to as 'Tengmalm's Owl'. See image above} This species is from eight and three quarters to ten and three quarter inches long.

It is brown above, and whitish below streaked with brown. It has a white flecking on the shoulders. The head is relatively large,the facial disc is white and the eyes are yellow. Their flight is strong and direct.

They are birds that breed across North America and Eurasia,and also in mountain ranges such as the Rockies and the Alps. In general they are not migratory,however, in some autumns,significant numbers make their way further south.

In Europe it is often referred as the Tengmalm's owl in honour of the Swedish Naturalists Peter, Gustaf Tengmalm. This family of owls the Strigidae contains most of the owl species. They are birds of dense coniferous forests where they diet on Voles, and other small mammals,it will also take birds and insects and other invertebrates. They are strictly nocturnal.

It is a hole-nesting species that seeks out a cavity in a tree. There is no nesting material utilized. Three to six eggs are laid.

There are six sub-species recognized. Aegolius funereus funereus, which occurs in Scandinavia to the Pyrenees and Urals with the exception of the Caucasus mountains.

A f caucasius of the northern Caucasus mountains. A f pallens, western Siberia and southern Siberia. A.f magnus -North eastern Siberia. A. f beikianus the extreme north western India to south west China and A.f richardsoni ,from central Alaska, Northern Canada and northern USA.

Northern Saw Whet

Delta B.C. Canada
Delta B.C. Canada | Source

Northern Saw-Whet Owl. Aegolius acadicus.

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl ,Aegolius acadicus,is a small owl native to North America.This species has the under parts white with soft brown streaks.On the shoulders there are two white patches. The face is white and rounded with brown and cream streaks. The eyes are yellow. The bill is hooked and of a dark horn colour. The upper parts are brown or reddish with white spots or blotches. They are not much larger than the American Robin**.

It takes its name from the call which has been likened to a Saw being sharpened on a whet -stone. Because of its excellent hearing and vision this owl locates its prey in total darkness. They perch high on branches then swoop down to take small mammals.They will also take small birds such as the Chickadee.**

Studies have shown that on the Pacific Coast,they will also take crustaceans,frogs and aquatic insects. They nest in tree holes either in natural cavities or in former woodpecker holes. The female will deposit five to six eggs which are white. The female will incubate them while the male does the hunting. They may well produce two broods per season. { generally with a different male}.

Once the owlets are nearly fledged the female will leave the male to feed and care for them,while she will be off to find another partner to mate with.These birds themselves fall prey to many predators such as martens,squirrels,corvids and larger species of owl. They inhabit dense thickets and bush and other wooded habitat. There are two recognized sub-species.

Aegolius acadicus acadicus and A.a brooksi. Some authorities recognize a third sub species A.a brodkorbi. There are no current conservation concerns.

Three owlets. Aegolius acadius


Aegolius ridgwayi


Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl.

Aegolius ridgwayi, is the Unspotted Saw-Whet owl a bird that was once considered conspecific to the Northern Spotted Saw -Whet,but is now recognized as a species in its own right. It is another small owl that occurs as a resident breeder in the highlands of Central America,from southern Mexico south to western Panama at altitudes of up to 2500 metres above sea level.

This species is just over seven inches long. Dark brown above with white markings on the wing. The buff coloured under parts lack the streaks that occur on the previous species and the buff colouring becomes darker on the upper chest and facial disc. The head is relatively large,the eyes yellow, the facial disc is edged with white. They have broad, rounded wings and a short tail.

They inhabit open mountain forests, in cloud forest and higher oak woodland. They are nocturnal owls feeding on small mammals such as shrews,mice,voles along with small birds,bats and insects. Although the flight is fluttering it is capable of agile mobility. It is named after Robert Ridgway. It is another species of owl that lays its eggs in the holes of trees. There are no recognized sub-species, and there are no current conservation concerns.

Aegolius harrisii


Aegolius harrisii-The Buff -Fronted Owl.

Aegolius harrisii, is a rare and somewhat local resident in the Highlands of South America,from Venezuela to Peru, Northern Argentina and north Paraquay. It is named after the American ornithologist Edward Harris.

It is another nocturnal owl species that breeds in open mountain forests where it feeds on rodents and other small mammals,supplemented by birds and insects. It is a small compact owl with broad wings and a short tail,about nine and a quarter inches long.It is generally black above with white markings or flecks on the wings. The under parts are a buff colour with no streaks,the tail is brown with two spotted white bars. The head is relatively large,the eyes yellow. The facial disc is buff coloured that is edged with black. The flight is strong and direct.

They like the former species nest in tree holes or tree cavities. Although local, there are no current conservation concerns.

Aegypius monachus

Darmstadt Vivarion .Darmstadt, Germany
Darmstadt Vivarion .Darmstadt, Germany | Source

Pair in captivity


The genus Aegypius

The genus Aegypius contains the species Aegypius monachus,the 'Cinereous Vulture.'. It is an 'Old World' Eurasian Vulture only distinctly related to the group collectively known as the 'New World' Vultures, of the family Cathartidae,although they do belong to the same order of birds the Accipitriformes. Moreover, despite the similar name and plumage colour they are not closely related to the American Black Vulture of the genus Coragyps.

It is often referred to as the Eurasian Black Vulture and the western limits of its range are in Spain and inland Portugal. There is also a re-introduced population in the south of France. They occur sporadically in Greece,Turkey and throughout the Middle East. Their range also includes Afghanistan, northern India to its eastern limits in Central Asia. Their range is fragmented through Europe.

This bird is considered to be the largest true bird of prey,with the Himalayan Griffin Vulture {Gyps himalaynenisis} alone coming close to it in size. The females tend to be slightly larger than the males.This huge bird may attain the overall length of three feet eleven inches.

It is a dark looking bird with the whole body plumage brown except for the pale head which is adorned with a fine blackish down. The skin of the head and neck is bluish grey with a paler off-white colour above the eyes. The cere is purplish blue,the bill greyish blue and the legs a pale blue grey.

They are generally quiet but the silence may be interrupted by a few querulous mewings or guttural cries.They are either encountered alone or in pairs,however, small groups may occur at large carcasses.

The birds breed at various times depending on locality. Birds in Spain and Algeria commecne in February or March while those in north west India may wait until April {usually earlier}, and in Turkey,- January They breed in loose colonies on high mountain and large forests nesting in trees or occasionally on cliff ledges.

The same nest is often used annually increasing in size over the years. it is composed of sticks and twigs. The female will deposit a single egg but tow have occasionally been encountered. The incubation period is fifty to sixty days. The newly hatched young are covered in a grey-white to grey-brown down. They are fed by their parents by means of regurgitation. It will be a further two to three months before they become fully fledged.

Like all vultures they feed on carrion of almost any type,and they are opportunistic feeders. It is a bird of hilly mountainous areas,favouring dry,semi-open habitat such as meadows at high altitudes.

The species is now classed as Near Threatened,due to declines caused by trapping, hunting and by being poisoned.They are also regularly shot.They are captured in some regions to be sold to Zoos.




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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb, and in my heart too, over here in the UK we have the Little owl in a different genus to these lovely owls but in many ways are quite similar. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      All wonderful birds that have a special place in my heart, especially the little Saw-whet Owl.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hello Devika,

      Thank you for your kind and appreciated comments and best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi D.A.L. you presented another beautiful hub. The owls are unique.


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