Red-headed babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps, copyright Alnus.

Belongs within: Sylviida.
Contains: Pomatorhinus.

Apalopteron familiare hahasima
Published 15 December 2009
Apalopteron familiare hahasima, photographed by Outsuka Hiroyuki.

Apalopteron familiare, the Bonin honeyeater, is a small bird of the Japanese Ogasawara (or Bonin) island group in the north-west Pacific. Phylogenetically speaking, it’s been shuffled around a bit over the years—originally described as a species of bulbul, it seems to have been regarded by many authors as some sort of timaliid (babbler) until Deignan identified it in 1958 as belonging to the Meliphagidae (honeyeaters), mainly on the basis of its branched, brushed tongue. There it stayed until molecular analysis re-identified it as a member of the white-eyes (Driskell & Christidis 2004). There are two funny things about this: (1) Apalopteron really does look like a white-eye (albeit a large one), so identifying it as one is hardly surprising; (2) further phylogenetic analysis has also placed the white-eyes (previously regarded as a separate family) within the Timaliidae (Gelang et al. 2009), making Apalopteron‘s older position correct after all.

The Ogasawara islands are arranged in three groups—from north to south, these are the Mukojima, Chichijima and Hahajima groups. Shima (which often becomes voiced to –jima when used in a compound) is Japanese for “island”, while chichi is “father” and haha is “mother” (other islands in the group include ani and otōto [elder and younger brother] and ane and imōto [elder and younger sister]). Apalopteron familiare was originally found on all three groups, but currently survives only in the Hahajima group. As on many Pacific islands, the Ogasawara fauna has been pretty heavily hit since the arrival of humans due to habitat disturbal and introduced predators—among the endemic species to have become extinct in the group are a heron (Nycticorax crassirostris), pigeon (Columba versicolor), thrush (Turdus terrestris), finch (Chaunoproctus ferrugineus) and bat (Pipistrellus sturdeei) (Iwahashi 1992). The type subspecies of Bonin honeyeater (Apalopteron familiare familiare) became extinct on Mukojima by the 1940s (Morioka & Sakane 1978)*. Kawakami et al. (2008) found that dispersal between populations of Apalopteron on separate islands was very low, which would further increase its vulnerability.

*It is possible that a bit of revision may be required here. Suzuki & Morioka (2005) indicated that the type locality for Apalopteron familiare was probably Chichijima rather than Mukojima. Chichijima is considerably closer to Hahajima than it is to Mukojima, raising the question of whether the correct subspecies has been identified as the type.

Systematics of Timaliidae
<==Timaliidae [Timaliinae]
    |  `--Spelaeornis David & Oustalet 1877JT12, B94 [Spelaeornithinae]
    |       |--S. badeigularisJT12
    |       |--S. caudatusJT12
    |       |--S. chocolatinusJF06
    |       |--S. formosusVP89
    |       |--S. kinneariJT12
    |       |--S. longicaudatusJT12
    |       |--S. oatesiJT12
    |       |--S. reptatusJT12
    |       `--S. troglodytoidesJT12
    `--+--+--‘Macronous’ gularisJT12
       |  `--+--Dumetia hyperythraJT12
       |     |    |--D. h. hyperythraGC09
       |     |    `--D. h. albogularisGC09
       |     `--Timalia Horsfield 1821JT12, B94 [incl. Napodes Cabanis 1850B94; Napodinae]
       |          |--T. hypoleucaE42
       |          `--T. pileataBKB15
       |               |--T. p. pileataGC09
       |               `--T. p. dictatorGC09
          |    |--M. bornensisJT12
          |    |--M. flavicollisJT12
          |    |--M. kelleyiJT12
          |    |--M. ptilosusMF09
          |    `--M. striaticepsJT12
               |  i. s.: S. assimilisS89
               |         S. bocageiS89
               |--S. chrysaeaBKB15 [=Stachyris chrysaeaJF06]
               `--+--‘Stachyris’ erythropteraMF09
                  `--+--S. rufifronsBKB15 [=Stachyris rufifronsJF06]
                     `--+--‘Stachyris’ ambiguaJT12
                        `--S. ruficepsBKB15 [=Stachyris ruficepsJF06]
                             |--S. r. ruficepsVP89
                             `--S. r. davidiVP89
Timaliidae incertae sedis:
    |--M. leytensisFP64
    `--M. sordidusJT12
  Drymocataphus fulvus Walden 1875S89
    |--M. grosvenoriJT12
    |--M. llaneaeJT12
    |--M. mariei [=M. mariae]S13
    |--M. rubiginosusJT12
    `--M. whitneyiJT12
    |--P. falcataJT12
    |--P. leucogrammicaJT12
    `--P. mindanensisJT12
  Rhopocichla atricepsJT12
    |--S. cachinnansJT12
    |    |--S. c. cachinnansHSS13
    |    `--S. c. jerdoniHSS13
    `--S. fairbankiJT12
    |--S. humeiJT12
    `--S. robertiJT12
  Conostoma oemodiumJT12
    |--C. albonotatusJT12
    `--C. langbianisJT12
  Leonardina woodiJT12
  Malia grataJT12
  Gypsophila crispifronsJT12
  Tephrozosterops stalkeriJT12
  Apalopteron familiare Kittlitz 1831JT12, I92
    |--A. f. familiareI92
    `--A. f. hahasima Yamashina 1930I92
  Megazosterops palauensisJT12
  Madanga ruficollisJT12

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B94] Bock, W. J. 1994. History and nomenclature of avian family-group names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 222: 1–281.

[BKB15] Burleigh, J. G., R. T. Kimball & E. L. Braun. 2015. Building the avian tree of life using a large-scale, sparse supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 53–63.

Driskell, A. C., & L. Christidis. 2004. Phylogeny and evolution of the Australo-Papuan honeyeaters (Passeriformes, Meliphagidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31 (3): 943–960.

[E42] Ewer, W. 1842. List of a collection of birds from India. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 10: 91–93.

[FP64] Fisher, J., & R. T. Peterson. 1964. The World of Birds: A comprehensive guide to general ornithology. Macdonald: London.

[GC09] Gelang, M., A. Cibois, E. Pasquet, U. Olsson, P. Alström & P. G. P. Ericson. 2009. Phylogeny of babblers (Aves, Passeriformes): major lineages, family limits and classification. Zoologica Scripta 38: 225–236.

[HSS13] Hirschfeld, E., A. Swash & R. Still. 2013. The World’s Rarest Birds. Princeton University Press: Princeton (New Jersey).

[I92] Iwahashi, J. (ed.) 1992. Reddo Deeta Animaruzu: a pictorial of Japanese fauna facing extinction. JICC: Tokyo.

[JT12] Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444–448.

[JF06] Jønsson, K. A., & J. Fjeldså. 2006. A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine birds. Zoologica Scripta 35: 149–186.

Kawakami, K., S. Harada, T. Suzuki & H. Higuchi. 2008. Genetic and morphological differences among populations of the Bonin Islands white-eye in Japan. Zoological Science 25 (9): 882–887.

Morioka, H., & T. Sakane. 1978. Observations on the ecology and behavior of Apalopteron familiare (Aves, Meliphagidae). Memoirs of the National Science Museum, Tokyo 11: 169–188, pls 7–8.

[MF09] Moyle, R. G., C. E. Filardi, C. E. Smith & J. Diamond. 2009. Explosive Pleistocene diversification and hemispheric expansion of a “great speciator”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 1006 (6): 1863–1868.

[S89] Salvadori, T. 1889. Viaggio di Leonardo Fea nella Birmania e nelle regioni vicine. XIX.—Uccelli raccolti nei Monti Carin a nord-est di Tounghoo, nel Pegù presso Rangoon e Tounghoo e nel Tenasserim presso Malewoon. Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova, Serie 2a, 7: 369–438.

[S13] Sarasin, F. 1913. Die Vögel Neu-Caledoniens und der Loyalty-Inseln. In: Sarasin, F., & J. Roux (eds) Nova Caledonia: Forschungen in Neu-Caledonian und auf den Loyalty-Inseln. A. Zoologie vol. 1 pt 1 pp. 1–78, pls 1–3. C. W. Kreidels Verlag: Wiesbaden.

Suzuki, T., & H. Morioka. 2005. Distribution and extinction of the Ogasawara Islands honeyeater Apalopteron familiare on Chichijima, Ogasawara Islands. Journal of the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology 37 (1): 45–49.

[VP89] Viney, C., & K. Phillipps. 1989. Birds of Hong Kong 5th ed. Government Printer: Hong Kong.

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