Sometimes, nature supersedes our expectations for what a certain species is “supposed” to look like. The world of birds is a case in point, a veritable beauty pageant on any given day. However, the colorful banded broadbill takes sartorial flair to a whole new level.
This stunning little bird—scientific name Eurylaimus javanicus—could easily be mistaken for the Australian kookaburra, or “tree kingfisher,” with its rounded body and helmet-shaped head. But while the kookaburra has a brown-beige plumage with a splash of electric blue, the banded broadbill boasts a color palette beyond compare.
Predominantly deep purple and black, the little bird’s wings are splattered with a bright, bold, artful yellow that takes the observer by surprise. Meanwhile, its piercing blue eyes and a teal beak make for a striking contrast, elevating this canopy dweller to near-celebrity status among bird lovers.
The banded broadbill is a rare tropical bird that is native to Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The bird favors humid lowland forest canopies, explains Thai National Parks, and enjoys safety in numbers, usually traveling in flocks of around 20 birds at a time.
Banded broadbills subsist on insects—mainly grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, beetles, and caterpillars—plus larvae for its rich nutritional content.
They are also a reclusive sort, according to Australian Geographic, building complex hanging nest structures from suspended vines, covered in lichen, that blend into their natural surroundings to keep their unhatched eggs safe from roaming predators. Additionally, male and female banded broadbills share their parenting duties.
The broadbill family—Eurylaimidae—is a diverse and colorful family at large, with the species living in rainforests of tropical Asia and Africa. What these birds all have in common are their broad heads, large eyes, hooked beaks, and eye-catching plumage reminiscent of the joyfully vibrant pages of a child’s coloring book.
Each species boasts its own incredible color palette.
The green broadbill—Calyptomena viridis—inhabits the forests of Borneo, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula, and its name is no misnomer. The green broadbill boasts a luminous, almost neon-green plumage and a perfectly semicircular umbrella-shaped head.
The male has black bars on its wings and a dark “comma” behind the eyes. They can be recognized by their “soft, bouncy hooting notes,” says eBird, and can live up to 19 years in the wild, although habitat destruction threatens to quell numbers.
The black-and-yellow broadbill—Eurylaimus ochromalus—looks almost too cartoon-like to be real. With a blue bill, blackhead, a thick white collar, and a rose-pink breast, this bird’s plumage plays with every different corner of the color spectrum.
Much like the banded broadbill, explains BirdForum, the black-and-yellow species constructs a hidden pear-shaped hanging nest from moss and plant matter in an attempt to keep its eggs from being snatched by the predatory Indian cuckoo.
This bird resides in Southeast Asia and is similarly threatened by habitat destruction, according to the IUCN Red List.
Black-and-red broadbills—Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos—are Southeast Asian neighbors to their black-and-yellow cousins. Their striking cherry-colored breasts make them stand out from the dark branches of the canopies surrounding them.
Preservation is imperative; many broadbills, according to Australian Geographic, are the only members of their genus. It’s a true mark of the little bird’s individuality, as single genera occur when scientists cannot find enough common features to group different iterations together.
These stunning winged works of art really are one-of-a-kind in the avian world.
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