Hill Blue Flycatcher Cyornis whitei Scientific name definitions

Wich'yanan Limparungpatthanakij, Peter Clement, and David Christie
Version: 1.1 — Published August 18, 2021


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Systematics History

Due to the plumage similarities of respective sexes, many Cyornis species have previously been over-lumped at species level with Hill Blue Flycatcher. Hitherto treated as conspecific with Javan Blue Flycatcher (C. banyumas) and Dayak Blue Flycatcher (C. montanus) under the scientific epithet of the former (1) due to priority. Now recognized as separate species following taxonomic revisions based on genetic and bioacoustics analyses (2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Prior to the recent species split, Large Blue Flycatcher (C. magnirostris) was also lumped with Hill Blue Flycatcher by Stresemann (25) largely due to the limited data available from breeding grounds ( 7, 26, 9, 10, 11) 16(12). Palawan Blue Flycatcher (C. lemprieri) was also once considered a subspecies of Hill Blue Flycatcher (13, 9, 14).

Geographic Variation

Individual variation is most pronounced in the tone of upperparts coloration in females, ranging from the typical rufous-brown to occasionally bluish-gray, and the extent of rufous-orange on underparts. Populations vary slightly with geography, with birds in the southern and south-eastern parts of its range being richer in coloration in general. The two very restricted-range subspecies largely confined to eastern Thailand, C. w. lekakhuni and C. w. deignani, appear to be slightly heavier-billed and have more extensive rufous on underparts.


Four subspecies are recognized as follows:

C. w. whitei (Harington, 1908): Occurs in north-eastern India, through Myanmar and southern China, south to northern, western, and north-eastern Thailand, northern Laos and Vietnam.

C. w. lekhakuni (Deignan, 1956): Slightly large-billed than C. w. whitei but male has deeper blue upperparts (19), brighter blue frontal band and lesser wing-coverts. Both sexes have more extensive orange on underparts than C. w. whitei (12). Female is said to have gray wash on crown (14). Endemic to Khao Yai National Park and adjacent hills in the eastern plateau of Thailand.

C. w. deignani (Meyer de Schauensee, 1939): Closely resembles C. w. lekhakuni but orange on belly slightly less extensive and male has duller blue frontal band (12). Confined to mountains of south-eastern Thailand and adjacent Cambodia.

C. w. coerulifrons (Baker, ECS, 1918): Similar to C. w. whitei but overall coloration noticeably richer and deeper (9). Rufous on breast may contrast with the slightly paler throat (19). Upperparts coloration in female varies from rufous brown to gray with bluish uppertail-coverts. Confined to southern Tenasserim, extreme southern Myanmar and Thai-Malay Peninsula.


Cyornis whitei whitei Scientific name definitions


N and E Myanmar, SC China (S Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, W Guangxi (27) ), N Thailand, N and C Laos and N Vietnam (W Tonkin, N Annam), probably also extreme NE India (NE Arunachal Pradesh (28) ); non-breeding also NE India (29) and W and C Myanmar (30).


Cyornis whitei lekhakuni Scientific name definitions


hills of S Thailand.


Cyornis whitei deignani Scientific name definitions


SE Thailand.


Cyornis whitei coerulifrons Scientific name definitions


S Thailand and N and C Peninsular Malaysia.

Related Species

In a recent molecular phylogeny based on eight concatenated genetic loci, Hill Blue Flycatcher appears to be part of a well-supported clade that includes Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher (C. poliogenys), Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (C. tickelliae), Fulvous-chested Jungle-Flycatcher (C. olivaceus), Javan Blue Flycatcher (C. banyumas), and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher (C. rufigastra). The exact position of these taxa within the clade is not fully resolved, as there was limited sequence data available for Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, but in one analysis it appeared to be sister to Hill Blue Flycatcher (3). It was estimated from the chronogram based on cytochrome b sequences that Hill Blue Flycatcher and Javan Blue Flycatcher, formerly considered conspecific, diverged approximately 2.78 mya (3).

Together with Large Blue Flycatcher (C. magnirostris), Javan Blue Flycatcher, and Dayak Blue Flycatcher (C. montanus), Hill Blue Flycatcher was thought to be either conspecific or form a superspecies with Palawan Blue Flycatcher (C. lemprieri) (31, 7).


Referred to as C. banyumas when lumped with Javan Blue Flycatcher and Dayak Blue Flycatcher, and formerly also with Large Blue Flycatcher. The name C. magnirostris of the latter often incorrectly applied to this species in the past.

Eaton et al. (32) proposed the common name Hill Jungle-flycatcher, as many species in the genus Cyornis totally lack blue in the plumage, specifically those possessing no sexual dichromatism that were formerly placed in the genus Rhinomyias. The name Large-billed Blue Flycatcher often applies to this species (26), although this name usually referred to Sunda Blue Flycatcher (C. caerulatus). Also referred to as Hill Blue-flycatcher, Hill Niltava, and Hill Blue Niltava.

Recommended Citation

Limparungpatthanakij , W. L., P. Clement, and D. A. Christie (2021). Hill Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis whitei), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.hibfly1.01.1