RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX (Leiothrix lutea) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The top parts are mainly grey, with an olive cap. The throat is yellow and the eyes are black, with a whitish patch around them. The under parts are grey. The edges of the grey wings are yellow-orange. The blue-grey tail is forked. The legs are pinkish. Sexes are similar but the female has duller colors. Juveniles have duller colors and a black bill. The overall length of this bird is about 6 inches (15 cm).
NAME: The English name ‘Leiothrix’ is from Latin ‘leio’ which means ‘smooth’, and ‘trix’ which is the feminine of words ending in ‘tor’ or ‘or’. The genus name was likely given because of the soft songs of those species, which belong to the Laughing Thrush family. The species Latin name ‘lutea’ is Latin for ‘yellow’, in reference to the bird’s throat color. The bird is also called ‘babbler’ because it sings melodiously. Finally, in the bird trade world it has many names such as the Japanese Nightingale.
HABITAT: Mountainous or hilly forests.
BEHAVIOR: This small species is very active yet secretive as it forages in groups in thick under story, making it difficult to observe, let alone photograph. This is what happened when I saw a few individuals at the Bird Park Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.
DIET: Insects, seeds and fruit such as papaya or strawberries.
NESTING: The red-billed Leiothrix builds its bowl-shaped nest in a dense part of the lower branches of trees. The nest is made of plant material such as lichen, leaves, moss. An average of three white spotted eggs are laid.
DISTRIBUTION: This leiothrix is native to China and the Himalayas. In addition to Hawaii the bird was introduced to some European countries, Japan and Australia.
CONSERVATION: In its native range, the red-billed leiothrix is now threatened due to the cage bird trade. However in Hawaii, this bird as a known vector of avian malaria is thought to be a factor in the decline and extinction of some endemic Hawaiian forest birds such as the honeycreepers. Because its diet includes seeds, it also helps propagate invasive weeds as well.
NOTES: The red-billed leiothrix has been a popular cage bird for centuries. It has been introduced to Hawaii in the 1910s, and since then the populations on the main islands have fluctuated up and down with no known cause.

Red-billed Leiothrix – Maui, HI – Mar. 2016 – photo by Arne Kaiser
Red-billed leiothrix, Maui, Arne Kaiser
Red-billed Leiothrix male – Chester Zoo, Cheshire, England – photo by Jonathan Jordan
Red-billed leiothrix male, Jonathan Jordan