The Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula) is a species of passerine bird in the family Monarchidae. Around 15 cm (6 in) in length, the male is a shiny lead-grey with white underparts, while the female has grey upperparts and a rufous throat and breast. It is found in eastern and northern Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.
The Leaden Flycatcher was first described by ornithologist John Latham in 1802, from an illustration in the Watling drawings. Its specific epithet is derived from the diminutive of ruber, Latin 'red'. A local name around Sydney is Frogbird, derived from its guttural call.Other variants of its common name include Blue- or Leaden-coloured Flycatcher. John Gould described and named the Pretty Flycatcher (Myiagra concinna) in 1848, which has since been subsumed into this species.
The Leaden Flycatcher is a member of a group of birds termed monarch flycatchers. This group is considered either as a subfamily Monarchinae, together with the fantails as part of the drongo family Dicruridae, or as a family Monarchidae in its own right. They are not closely related to either their namesakes, the Old World flycatchers of the family Muscicapidae; early molecular research in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed the monarchs belong to a large group of mainly Australasian birds known as the Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines. More recently, the grouping has been refined somewhat as the monarchs have been classified in a 'Core corvine' group with the crows and ravens, shrikes, birds of paradise, fantails, drongos and mudnest builders.
Five subspecies are currently recognised:
- M. r. rubecula is the nominate subspecies originally described by Latham from Southeastern Australia.
- M. r. concinna, called the Pretty Flycatcher by John Gould, occurs in northwestern Australia.
- M. r. okyri was described by Schodde and Mason in 1999. It is an unusual non-migratory form from Cape York. The specific epithet is an anagram of yorki. The holotype was collected from Coen in north Queensland.
- M. r. papuana, from New Guinea and Torres Strait islands was named by Rothschild and Hartert in 1918.
- M. r. yorki was named by Gregory Mathews in 1912.
Female, showing rufous underparts
Kobble Creek, SE Queensland
The Leaden Flycatcher is 14.5-16 cm (6-6½ in) long and weighs around 10-15 g. It is a shiny lead-grey in colour with a brownish tinge to the wings, a bluish black bill, black legs and dark brown iris. The male has darker grey lores, and a white breast and belly, while the female has an orange-tan throat and breast with a white belly. The juvenile resembles the adult female, but with paler wing-edges.
Distribution and habitat
The Leaden Flycatcher is found from King Sound in northwestern Australia, across the Top End to Cape York, and then down the east coast to central-southern Victoria. It is rare in Tasmania. It is highly migratory within this range. Sclerophyll forest, rainforest margins, mangroves and coastal scrub are the preferred habitats.
As its name suggests, the Leaden Flycatcher is insectivorous. A very active and agile bird, it hops between branches and catches insects in flight.
Breeding season is September to February with one brood raised. The nest is a deep cup made of strips of bark and dry grass, woven together with spider webs and decorated with lichen, generally sited on a small branch well away from the trunk of a sizeable tree some 5-10 m above the ground. Two or three white eggs tinted bluish, greyish or lavender and splotched with dark grey-brown are laid measuring 17 mm x 14 mm. They have an unusual swollen oval shape. The species is parasitised by the Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus). Both sexes incubate the eggs and brood the chicks, although the female undertakes slightly more of the dutiesand also incubates at night. Nesting success is low, with only 23% of nests successfully fledging a chick.
Male Rush Creek, SE Queensland