- African Tailorbird
 - African Tailorbird
 - African Tailorbird
 - African Tailorbird

African Tailorbird Artisornis metopias Scientific name definitions

Flemming P. Jensen and Peter F. D. Boesman
Version: 2.0 — Published December 23, 2022
Revision Notes

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The African Tailorbird is a small rufous-headed songbird with a relatively long bill and short tail, restricted to a string of isolated mountains in eastern Tanzania and northwestern Mozambique. In these areas it occurs in dense undergrowth, mainly at forest edges and clearings from around 1,000 to 2,600 meters elevation.

Very unusual among African montane birds, the African Tailorbird co-occurs with its sister species the Long-billed Tailorbird (Artisornis moreaui) on two of the mountains: the East Usambara Mountains in northeastern Tanzania and the Serra Jeci in northwestern Mozambique, some 950 kilometers away. In the East Usambara Mountains, the two species are partly segregated by elevation, and while both species spend considerable time in the undergrowth, the Long-billed Tailorbird also ventures into the canopy. In the Serra Jeci, where the elevational band of montane forest is so narrow that it is unlikely to permit elevational segregation, the African Tailorbird primarily occurs in the understory and the Long-billed Tailorbird in the mid-canopy.

The African Tailorbird is highly territorial, with both members of a pair defending the territory using duetting and closely approaching the intruder. Breeding has been recorded during the rainy season. The nest structure is a pouch of hanging leaves sewn together with plant fibers, within which is a delicate cup of lichen and fungal fragments, bound together with spider web. The clutch includes 2 eggs, but nothing is known about the incubation period or parental care.

Previously, the African Tailorbird was thought to be related to South Asian tailorbirds (Orthotomus) because of similarities in plumage and stitched-leaf nest structure, but recent molecular studies have confirmed that the species is part of the African tailorbird genus (Artisornis) and sister to Oreolais. Artisornis is distantly related to Orthotomus, suggesting that the similar nest architecture could reflect convergence.

Distribution of the African Tailorbird - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the African Tailorbird

Recommended Citation

Jensen, F. P. and P. F. D. Boesman (2022). African Tailorbird (Artisornis metopias), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.afrtai2.02