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Subdesert Mesite.jpg
Subdesert mesite (Monias benschi)
Scientific classification e
Unrecognized taxon (fix): Mesitornithiformes
Family: Mesitornithidae
Wetmore, 1960


Respective ranges: brown mesite in orange, white-breasted mesite in green and subdesert mesite in blue

Mesites are small birds which only occur on Madagascar. They are flighless, or near-flightless. There are three species, in two genera. The IUCN has classified them as near-threatened. The IUCN estimates that there are only about 145.000 birds left. They resemble doves in appearance.


The mesites are forest and scrubland birds that feed on insects and seeds. The brown and white-breasted mesites forage on the ground, gleaning insects from the leaves and under them, as well as low vegetation. The subdesert mesite uses its long bill to probe in the soil. Other birds, such as drongos and flycatchers, will follow mesites to catch any insects they flush and miss. Mesites are vocal birds, with calls similar to passerine song, used for territorial defence. Two or three white eggs are laid in a stick-nest located in a bush or low branch. The Mesitornis species are monogamous while Monias benschi is polygamous and unlike the other two shows significant sexual dichromatism.


There are two genera, Mesitornis (2 species) and Monias (subdesert mesite).

Image Genus Species
Subdesert Mesite.jpg Monias Oustalet & Grandidier, 1903
  • Subdesert mesite Monias benschi Oustalet & Grandidier, 1903
White-breasted Mesite - Ankarafantsika - Madagascar S4E9441 (15297364032).jpg Mesitornis Bonaparte, 1855 [Mesites Geoffroy, 1838 non Schoenherr, 1838; Mesoenas Reichenbach, 1861]
  • White-breasted mesite, Mesitornis variegata (Saint-Hilaire, 1838)
  • Brown mesite, Mesitornis unicolor (Des Murs, 1845)

Historically, mesites phylogenetics relations were not very clear and have been allied with the Gruiformes, Turniciformes and Columbiformes.

Recent phylogenomic studies support Pterocliformes (sandgrouse) as the sister group of mesites while some more recent studies place this clade with another clade constituted of Columbiformes and Cuculiformes (cuckoos).

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