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Sultan Tit Picture

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The Sultan Tit, Melanochlora sultanea, is a large songbird (about 17 cm long) with a yellow crest, dark bill, black upperparts plumage and yellow underparts. The sexes are similar. The female has greenish black upperparts and yellowish throat. The young bird is duller than the adult and has a shorter crest.

It is the only member of the monotypic genus Melanochlora, which is fairly distinct from the remaining titmice with the nearest relative being the monotypic Sylviparus (Gill et al., 2005). Indeed, these two birds are so distinct, judging from mtDNA cytochrome b sequences, that they might not properly belong to the Paridae if the penduline tits are not placed therein too.

Description Race gayeti has a black crest

The male has the forehead and crown with the crest brilliant yellow; the whole upper plumage, sides of the head and neck, chin, throat, and breast deep black glossed with green, the edges of the feathers of the upper plumage with a metallic lustre, and the outermost tail-feathers tipped with white; lower plumage from the breast downwards deep yellow, the thighs barred or mottled with white.

The female has the yellow parts duller; the upper plumage and sides of the head dark greenish brown; the chin and throat glossed dark olive-green; wings and tail dull black; the feathers of the upper plumage edged with metallic green.

The young resemble the female, but in the youngest stage the bright edges to the plumage of the upper parts are absent, and the greater wing-coverts are edged with white.

They forage in the mid and upper canopy singly or in small groups. They call loudly with short repeated whisling notes which vary but always have a tit-like quality.

The bill is black; the mouth dark fleshy; the eyelids plumbeous; the iris dark brown; the legs plumbeous; the claws dark horn. The length is about 8 inches; the tail measures 3.8 inches; the wing 4.4 inches; the tarsus 0.95 inches; the bill from the gape 0.75 inches.


Four subspecies are recognized with the nominate sultanea (Hodgson, 1837) found from Central Nepal into the eastern Himalayas extending into Myanmar, northern Thailand and Souther China. The race flavocristata (Lafresnaye, 1837) is found further south in Thailand, the Malay Peninsula and Hainan. Race seorsa is found in Laos and parts of southeastern China (Guangxi, Fujian). Race gayeti Delacour & Jabouille, 1925 which has a black crest in both males and females is found in Laos and Vietnam.

In India, this species occurs in the lower ranges of the Himalayas from Nepal to the head of the Assam valley,the Khasi hills, Cachar, Manipur, the Kakhyen hills east of Bhamo, Arrakan, the Pegu hills, Karennee, and Tenasserim. This species does not appear to be found above 4000 feet of elevation. It extends down the Malay peninsula. It frequents the larger trees in small flocks.

Widespread throughout its large range, the Sultan Tit is evaluated as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


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