The red-tailed newtonia (Newtonia fanovanae) is a small, warbler-like bird native to Madagascar (2). Like other newtonia, it is drab in colour and has a thick neck (2), but it can be distinguished by its reddish tail feathers and slender two-tone bill, which has a pale lower mandible and darker upper mandible. The crown, cheeks and back of the neck are ashy-grey contrasting with the greyish-brown upperparts (3). The wings are slightly darker on the primary feathers, and the secondary feathers are yellowish-brown or orange resulting in a pale panel when the wing is closed (3). The underparts are whitish with a bronze wash on the sides of breast (3).
Male and female red-tailed newtonia are similar in appearance, while the plumage of the juveniles has not been formally described (2).
The red-tailed newtonia is very similar in colouration to the female red-tailed vanga (Calicalicus madagascariensis), but the female red-tailed vanga has a thicker set body, thicker black bill, conspicuous pale eye ring and lacks the pale panel on the closed wing (3).
The songs of the red-tailed newtonia are clear and far-carrying (3) consisting of a descending ‘pitchi pitchi pitchi pitchi pitchi’ or ‘swee swee swee swee swee’ (2), which are often sung alternately (3).
- Also known as
- Fanovana newtonia.
- Newtonia à queue rouge.
- Length: 12 cm (2)
- 12.5 g (2)
Red-tailed newtonia biology
The red-tailed newtonia feeds on small insects, which it plucks from branches and tree trunks using its fine bill (2). It forages high up in canopy, in trees that stand up to 50 metres tall, usually in company of other birds such as other newtonia species and small vanga (birds in the Vangidae family) (3).
The breeding biology of this rare species is not yet known (3).
Red-tailed newtonia range
Like all newtonia species, the red-tailed newtonia occurs only in Madagascar (4). Its range stretches down the eastern side of the island, from Marojejy in the north, to Andohahela in the south (4).
Red-tailed newtonia habitat
The red-tailed newtonia is restricted to undisturbed lowland evergreen rainforest, typically at elevations up to 500 metres, but occasionally it may be found up to 800 metres above sea level (4).
Red-tailed newtonia status
The red-tailed newtonia is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1)
Red-tailed newtonia threats
As the red-tailed newtonia is dependent on undisturbed lowland rainforest (3), habitat loss is the main threat to the red-tailed newtonia (4). Undisturbed lowland rainforest currently accounts for less than 20 percent of rainforest in Madagascar (3), and this forest is being rapidly diminished by human activities.
Slash-and-burn cultivation by subsistence farmers is the main cause of habitat loss (4), but the forest is also under pressure from an increasing human population and commercial logging. If habitat loss continues at this rate, the remaining habitat of the red-tailed newtonia could disappear within decades (4).
Red-tailed newtonia conservation
Although there are not known to be any specific conservation measures in place for the red-tailed newtonia it does occur in a number of protected areas, including Ambatovaky Special Reserve, Andohahela National Park and Marojejy National Park (4).
Since the main threat to the red-tailed newtonia is habitat loss, protecting the forest where this species is still present is crucial (4). This includes effectively protecting National Parks (2) and involving local communities in the conservation of lowland forests in the region (4).
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- Evergreen rainforest
- Rainforest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
- In birds, the lower jaw and beak, but the term is also used to denote the two parts of the beak.
- Primary feathers
- The main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of the wing.
- Secondary feathers
- The shorter flight feathers projecting along the inner edge of the wing.
- The cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create space for agriculture or livestock.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2009) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-Shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Morris, P., Hawkins, F. and Andrews, M. (1988). Birds of Madagascar: A Photographic Guide. Pica Press, UK.
BirdLife International (November, 2010)