The Melanocharitidae, the berrypeckers and longbills, is a small bird family restricted to the forests of New Guinea. The family was once placed inside the Flowerpecker family Dicaeidae, and the longbills were once considered to be honeyeaters (which they closely resemble). It comprises ten species in two genera, the Melanocharis berrypeckers and the Toxorhamphus. There is some confusion with the common names, as there are two other berrypecker species in the tiny family Paramythiidae, once considered to be close to the flowerpeckers as well; and several Old World warbler genera in Africa also known as longbills. The Spotted Berrypecker was once attributed its own genus Rhamphocharis.
These are medium-sized birds (Melanocharis usually bigger than Toxorhamphus) which feed on fruit and on insects and other invertebrates. They have drab-coloured plumage in greys, browns or black and white. The berrypeckers resemble stout short-billed honeyeaters, and the longbills are like drab sunbirds or short-tailed honeyeaters. The calls of the berrypeckers have been described as high pitched and faint, and the song rapid.
The berrypeckers are generally montane species, with only one, the Black Berrypecker, being found in lowland forest. In contrast the longbills live in lowland forests and low montane forests as well as on small islands around New Guinea. Amongst the berrypeckers there is a succession of species at different altitudes, with the Black Berrypecker being found in the lowlands, the Lemon-breasted Berrypecker being found at lower altitudes (mid-montane) and the Fan-tailed Berrypecker being found near the treeline.
Melanocharitidae species are usually seen alone or in pairs. The breeding of some species is undescribed; those that are known breed in the dry season. They build a cup nest, usually on a forked branch near the edge of a tree, out of fern scales and plant fibres bound neatly with insect or spider silk and ornamented with lichens. They lay one or two eggs.
The berrypeckers and longbills are not considered to be threatened by human activities. No species is listed as threatened by the IUCN, although one species, the Obscure Berrypecker, is listed as data deficient. That species is known officially from two collected specimens, but unconfirmed reports suggest that it is not uncommon in remote parts of New Guinea.
- Obscure Berrypecker, Melanocharis arfakiana
- Black Berrypecker, Melanocharis nigra
- Lemon-breasted Berrypecker, Melanocharis longicauda
- Fan-tailed Berrypecker, Melanocharis versteri
- Streaked Berrypecker, Melanocharis striativentris
- Spotted Berrypecker, Melanocharis crassirostris
- Yellow-bellied Longbill, Toxorhamphus novaeguineae
- Slaty-chinned Longbill, Toxorhamphus poliopterus
- Plumed Longbill, Toxorhamphus iliolophus
- Pygmy Longbill, Toxorhamphus pygmaeum