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What is a Tailorbird?

By Debra Durkee
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Tailorbirds are a family of small birds known for their distinctive calls and unique nests. They get their name from the female's ability to weave nests out of leaves by sewing the edges together. While some species of tailorbirds are quite common, there are others that have been listed as endangered.

The common tailorbird is one of the most numerous varieties, found throughout Southeast Asia, where it coexists easily alongside humans. Its habitat of choice is in the humid forests and mangroves of Pakistan east to Indonesia and China. Active and hardy, tailorbirds have been able to adapt to intrusions on their natural habitats and move their nests into city areas, where they are known to nest on buildings and to thrive in small parks and gardens. One of the rarest of the species of tailorbird, the long-billed, lives only in two forests: one in the mountains of Tanzania and the other in Mozambique.

Nondescript birds, the males have drab green backs and cream-colored chests and stomachs. Females are similar in coloring, but lack the long tail feathers that the males acquire during the breeding season. Similar to the common tailorbird is the ashy tailorbird, which has like coloring with the addition of a red face and gray back. The long-billed is equally nondescript, and has gray feathers that are darker across the back, and a brown face.

One thing the different species of tailorbirds have in common is their unique way of building a nest. The male escorts the female tailorbird as she looks for a suitable leaf; usually the entire nest is built out of a single leaf, although some have been seen sewing several together. Once the leaf is found, the female harvests spiderwebs to wrap around the leaf to form it into a cone. Poking holes in the joined edges of the leaf with her beak, she then secures it with any of a number of fibrous materials at hand. It is then filled with small leaves and whatever other soft material she can find in order to provide a secure cushion for between two and six eggs.

Even outside the breeding season, tailorbirds are generally seen traveling in pairs. Sometimes these pairs will accompany flocks of other types of birds, but this generally doesn't last for a long time. Each species has its own distinct, songlike call, which the birds make almost constantly as they forage for their diets of insects, larvae, and small fruits and seeds. Incredibly active birds, they are rarely seen at rest; even when they are standing still, they are often flicking their long tails to give them a restless appearance.

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Discussion Comments
By anon993102 — On Oct 22, 2015

Thus the reason why I like crows.

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