Family Tits and Chickadees (Paridae)

Least Concern

Dusky Tit (Melaniparus funereus)

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Taxonomy

French: Mésange enfumée German: Einfarb-Rußmeise Spanish: Carbonero cenizo
Taxonomy:

Melanoparus [sic] funereus

J. P. Verreaux and J. B. É. Verreaux

, 1855,

Gabon

.

Molecular data suggest it is sister to M. griseiventris and M. fasciiventer#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. f. funereus J. P. Verreaux & J. B. É. Verreaux, 1855 – Sierra Leone and Guinea E, discontinuously, to DRCongo, S Uganda, extreme S South Sudan and W Kenya.
  • M. f. gabela (Traylor, 1961) – W Angola.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14·5 cm; 22–29 g. Medium-sized to large, all-dark tit with red eyes. Male nominate race has entire body, wing and tail blackish or sooty black, in fresh plumage crown to uppertail-coverts glossed bluish-green; upperwing-coverts glossed duller bluish-green, and flight-feathers slightly darker, outer primaries finely fringed greyish; axillaries blackish to dark-grey; in worn plumage, flight-feathers duller and browner; iris deep bright red to orange-red; bill black; legs bluish-grey or black. Female is similar to male, but has upperparts blackish-grey, brownish-grey feather tips on forehead to nape, upper­parts duller and less glossy than male, tail fringed grey-brown, greater coverts and flight-feathers also finely fringed greyer, face and underparts paler and greyer than male. Juvenile resembles male, with upperparts blackish-brown but lacking glossy tones, and with large white tips on greater coverts. Race gabela differs little from nominate, has throat to breast duller black, lacking greenish gloss, and female is paler, with underparts bluish slate-grey.

    Drawing by Hilary Burn
    Descriptive notes:

    13–14·5 cm; 22–29 g. Medium-sized to large, all-dark tit with red eyes. Male nominate race has entire body, wing and tail blackish or sooty black, in fresh plumage crown to uppertail-coverts glossed bluish-green; upperwing-coverts glossed duller bluish-green, and flight-feathers slightly darker, outer primaries finely fringed greyish; axillaries blackish to dark-grey; in worn plumage, flight-feathers duller and browner; iris deep bright red to orange-red; bill black; legs bluish-grey or black. Female is similar to male, but has upperparts blackish-grey, brownish-grey feather tips on forehead to nape, upper­parts duller and less glossy than male, tail fringed grey-brown, greater coverts and flight-feathers also finely fringed greyer, face and underparts paler and greyer than male. Juvenile resembles male, with upperparts blackish-brown but lacking glossy tones, and with large white tips on greater coverts. Race gabela differs little from nominate, has throat to breast duller black, lacking greenish gloss, and female is paler, with underparts bluish slate-grey.

    Drawing by Hilary Burn
    Descriptive notes:

    13–14·5 cm; 22–29 g. Medium-sized to large, all-dark tit with red eyes. Male nominate race has entire body, wing and tail blackish or sooty black, in fresh plumage crown to uppertail-coverts glossed bluish-green; upperwing-coverts glossed duller bluish-green, and flight-feathers slightly darker, outer primaries finely fringed greyish; axillaries blackish to dark-grey; in worn plumage, flight-feathers duller and browner; iris deep bright red to orange-red; bill black; legs bluish-grey or black. Female is similar to male, but has upperparts blackish-grey, brownish-grey feather tips on forehead to nape, upper­parts duller and less glossy than male, tail fringed grey-brown, greater coverts and flight-feathers also finely fringed greyer, face and underparts paler and greyer than male. Juvenile resembles male, with upperparts blackish-brown but lacking glossy tones, and with large white tips on greater coverts. Race gabela differs little from nominate, has throat to breast duller black, lacking greenish gloss, and female is paler, with underparts bluish slate-grey.

    Voice

    Very vocal, and has wide variety of calls, including slow and ringing “see-er, see-er, see-er”, variably given as “ss-pyew” or “fui-tsiu” (Rwanda) or “see-tyop” (Liberia), also a metallic “chut-chut-tzi-tzi-tzi” and similar whistled “tsi-tsi-tsi-tu”, and a series of slow, harsh churrs, “tirrru, tirrru, tirrru, turee, tirrru”. Song apparently a longer and more varied version of the call notes, including slow, metallic and ringing “tsi-piu, tsi-piu, tsi-piu” or “tsi-pupu, tsi-piu, tsi-pupu, tsitsi-pu” and repeated “zi-zizi-huititi-tihui-tihui”, also described as a jumbled medley of harsh and whistled notes incorporating various call notes and churrs, together with occasional imitations of other birds, e.g. Fraser’s Forest-flycatcher (Fraseria ocreata).

    Habitat

    Dense primary and secondary evergreen forests, also gallery forest, old plantations and edges of cultivation; in Liberia occurs in forest-grassland mosaic at 550–800 m on Mt Nimba. Above 800 m in Guinea and to 2200 m in DRCongo; up to 2000 m in S Sudan (Imatong Mts), at 900–1700 m in Uganda and W Kenya, but to 2440 m in Impenetrable Forest (SW Uganda); to 2500 m (but more numerous below 2100 m) in Nyungwe Forest, in Rwanda; to 2500 m in W Angola.

    Food and feeding

    Food includes small invertebrates, mainly beetles (Coleoptera) and orthopterans, also larvae, principally of micro-lepidopterans; also seeds and fruit. Usually in pairs, in family parties of 3–6 individuals, or in larger groups of up to 15; also often in (or leading) mixed-species foraging flocks. Single-species flocks occupy and defend territories of 12–15 ha. Actively forages in canopy, on boughs and around branches of tall trees, also clings to trunk, including of tall parasol trees (Musanga) in secondary forest; rarely descends to within 15 m of ground. Examines branches, clumps of dead leaves and bark for prey, occasionally in fruiting trees e.g. fig (Ficus).

    Breeding

    Poorly known. Season variable, possibly dependent on rains; adults in breeding condition in Nov in W Africa and Mar, Jun and Sept in DRCongo, and fledglings in Apr–Jul and Oct in W Africa and Oct in Uganda. One nest found, lined with soft plant material, placed 15 m from ground in hole in dead tree. Clutch 3 eggs; two juveniles begging for food 3 months after leaving nest. No other information.

    Movements

    Resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common or uncommon in Guinea, Sudan and Uganda; scarce in Sierra Leone and Cameroon; rare in E Ivory Coast and S Ghana. Estimated density of 25–30 individuals/km² in NE Gabon. In Uganda, range formerly extended E to Mt Elgon. Entire population of W Angolan race gabela now confined to small area of evergreen forest, most of which has been replaced with coffee plantations.

    Recommended citation

    Gosler, A. & Clement, P. (2019). Dusky Tit (Melaniparus funereus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/59891 on 21 May 2019).