White-tailed Iora Aegithina nigrolutea

Prasad Ganpule
Version: 2.0 — Published October 22, 2020


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Birds are usually solitary or in pairs. They are mainly arboreal but descend to low bushes for feeding, where they search methodically among trees and bushes for prey, hopping around branches, and hangs upside-down. Calls frequently when foraging, with each bird calling to the other or even when a single individual is feeding and foraging (PG).


Walking, Running, Hopping, Climbing, etc.

Hops on one branch in search of prey or from one branch to another. Often stretches itself to catch prey. Frequently makes short flights inside a big tree to go from one branch to another. Hangs upside down on leaves and seed pods in search of prey. Mainly arboreal and locomotion on the ground not observed (PG).


Not a very strong flier. Moves from one tree to another in short flights. Tends to take flights of longer distance (more than 100 m) only occasionally. In longer flights, does not fly in level flight but tends to have undulating flight (PG).


Preening, Head Scratching, Stretching, Bathing, Anting, Sunbathing, Etc

Preening is the most frequent self-maintenance activity; uses its beak and feet to preen feathers. While foraging, it will stop for a few minutes in a branch of a tree and start preening, cleaning its tail and body feathers and using its feet to scratch the feathers on the head. The number of times preening is done in a day is not known. No direct observation of bathing in water over more than 15 hours of study (over 7 days) in the monsoon season in western India (Gujarat; PG). In non-breeding season (winter) in western India, observed to preen for a few seconds before roosting for the night (PG).

Sleeping, Roosting and Sunbathing

Typically roosts individually outside the breeding season in a clump of bushes, where birds are usually well-hidden in foliage. In direct observation of roosting or sleeping in the winter, a single non-breeding plumaged individual moved from branch to branch, calling a few times late in the evening after sunset. It then settled on a small branch in a bush (at about 2 m height), preened for a few seconds, raised its feathers (fluffed up its plumage), tucked its head in its body and went to sleep (PG). Very close approach (to almost 2-3 m) did not disturb it.

No information regarding sunbathing.

Daily Time Budget

No detailed studies done. Birds are more active early in the morning and late in the evening, feeding and foraging at these times. In the afternoon, they are less active and movement for feeding and foraging not observed. In hot summer months in western India, afternoon activity is reduced and it remains perched in bushes or trees with leaves. In the breeding season, displays more in the morning and evening, with calling extending for longer periods (PG).

Agonistic Behavior

Individual Distance

In the breeding season, pair roosts side-by-side. In non-breeding season, moves singly, in pairs, or even in small groups of 4-6 individuals. However, due to similarity in plumage of male and female in the non-breeding season, it is difficult to assess the sex of the birds seen together (PG).

Physical Interactions

Interspecific interactions have been observed in Sri Lanka (26) and in western India (Gujarat) (PG).

In Sri Lanka, a pair of Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) was chased from its territory, with males of both species engaged in threat display. The female White-tailed Iora chased the female Common Iora from its territory, with the male White-tailed Iora also joining in chasing the female Common Iora. Aggression towards Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica) and Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) also observed. Common Woodshrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus) and Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) chased it away (26).

In Gujarat, both Common Iora and White-tailed Iora were observed to be foraging in the same tree, without any interaction between them (18). Both foraged without any aggressive display towards each other. This has been observed in different locations in Saurashtra as well (PG). White-tailed Iora chased away a Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus) and Gray-breasted Prinia (Prinia hodgsonii) from the tree where it was foraging. Similar to birds in Sri Lanka, they were chased by a Red-vented Bulbul and Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda).

Threat and Appeasement Display

Threat display given by the male involves half-spreading its wings sideways, with wings somewhat drooping so that the white in wings is visible. Harsh, ‘scolding’ calls are uttered while this display is given. In one study, the threat display was given in front of Common Iora in Sri Lanka (26).

No information about appeasement display.



Information about territoriality is lacking. Not known to nest communally, but in a patch of thorn jungle in western India (Gujarat), at least four pairs were observed nesting in an area of about 1 km2 (PG). Birds defend the area in the immediate vicinity of the nest and aggression by the male towards other males in the breeding season observed. Area of home range not known. In the non-breeding season, appears to move over wider areas for foraging, as birds have been observed in nearby agricultural landscapes outside its primary habitat, where it is absent in the breeding season (PG).

Sexual Behavior

Courtship, Copulation, and Pair Bond

White-tailed Iora has an impressive courtship display (23, 27). It involves the male flying up in the air, with its feathers fluffed up, and then expanding its tail as it glides down spirally to a perch, looking like a black and yellow ball of feathers; a harsh “churr” is uttered along with the long repeated call. Another form of courtship display is when the male perches on a branch, raises its tail, and leans forward exposing its white rump and calls loudly (PG). During the perched display, the wings are often fluttered. Both the in flight and perched displays are in front of the female, and more than one male is often seen displaying in front of the female. Instances of male offering insects to the female during courtship observed in western India (PG).

Copulation occurs when the pair is building its nest and the male mounts the female. The female crouches and raises its posterior, allowing the male to copulate. Copulation is brief (less than 5 seconds), but frequency and duration of copulation not well studied (PG).

The pair bonds remain intact until the chicks are fledged. Pairs are seen together even in the winter, but it is not known if the same pair bond extends through the winter, or whether the same pair nests together in the next season (PG).

Extra Pair Copulations

No information available.

Social and Interspecific Behavior

Degree of Sociality

Usually seen singly or in pairs (23). During the non-breeding season, may occur in small flocks of up to 4-6 individuals, but such flocks are rare (PG). Birds are in pairs during the breeding season until the chicks fledge. It is not gregarious and large flocks never observed even when a particular area may have a good population.


Kinds of Predators

No direct observation of being predated upon. But in western India (Gujarat), Shikra (Accipiter badius) suspected to prey on it as direct attack observed once but it escaped by hiding in the thorny shrub (PG).

Recommended Citation

Ganpule, P. (2020). White-tailed Iora (Aegithina nigrolutea), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.whtior1.02