Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Japanese paradise flycatcher

Thai: นกแซวสวรรค์หางดำ, nok saew sawan haang dam

Binomial name: Terpsiphone atrocaudata, Thomas Campbell Eyton, 1839

The Japanese paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata), also called the black paradise flycatcher, is a medium-sized passerine bird. It was previously classified with the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae, but the paradise-flycatchers, monarch flycatchers and Australasian fantails are now normally grouped with the drongos in the family Dicruridae, which has most of its members in Australasia and tropical southern Asia.

The Japanese paradise flycatcher is mainly migratory and breeds in shady mature deciduous or evergreen broadleaf forest of Japan (southern Honshū, Shikoku, Kyushu and the Nansei Shoto islands), South Korea, Taiwan (including Lanyu island) and the far north Philippines. It is a non-breeding visitor to mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Sumatra, Indonesia.

Habitat: In Jeju-do of South Korea, Gotjawal Forest, a forest formed on a rocky area of volcanic AA Lava, is one of the important breeding sites of Japanese paradise flycatcher

There are three subspecies, the nominate T. a. atrocaudata which breeds through most of Japanese/Korean range, T. a. illex which is resident in the Ryukyu Islands, and T. a. periophthalmica restricted to Lanyu Island off southeast Taiwan.

The Japanese paradise flycatcher is similar in appearance to the Asian paradise flycatcher but slightly smaller. Mature males have a black hood with a purplish-blue gloss which shades into blackish-grey on the chest. The underparts are off-white to white. The mantle, back, wings and rump are plain dark chestnut. The tail has extremely long black central feathers, which are shorter in immature males. Unlike the Asian paradise flycatcher there is no white morph. The female resembles the male but is duller and darker brown on the chestnut areas. It has black legs and feet, a large black eye with a blue eye-ring, and a short blue bill.

The song is rendered in Japanese as tsuki-hi-hoshi, hoi-hoi-hoi, which translates to Moon-Sun-Stars and gives the Japanese name of the bird サンコウチョウ (三光鳥) sankōchō (literally, bird of three lights, i.e. moon, sun, star, from san three + kō lights + chō bird).

A recent survey detected a steep decline in part of the Japanese breeding population which has presumably occurred because of forest loss and degradation in its winter range.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Passeriformes
Family
Monarchidae
Genus
Terpsiphone
Species
Terpsiphone atrocaudata

Common names

  • Thai: นกแซวสวรรค์หางดำ, nok saew sawan haang dam

Subspecies

  • Terpsiphone atrocaudata atrocaudata (nominate), Thomas Campbell Eyton, 1839

    Range: Breeds through most of Japanese/Korean range

  • Terpsiphone atrocaudata illex, Outram Bangs, 1901

    Range: Ryukyu Islands

  • Terpsiphone atrocaudata periophthalmica, William Robert Ogilvie-Grant, 1895

    Range: Restricted to Lanyu Island off southeast Taiwan.

Conservation status

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Japanese paradise flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata in Thailand

Range map of Terpsiphone atrocaudata in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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