They are smallish, near flightless birds endemic to Madagascar. They are brownish birds generally with paler undersides. There are two genera, Mesitornis, the White-breasted Mesite and the Brown Mesite, and Monias, the Subdesert Mesite.
Habitat and feeding
They are forest and scrub birds which 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. The usually single white egg is laid in a nest in a bush. Two of the species (Mesitornis) are monogamous; the other is polygamous.
They are the only family with more than two species in which every kind is threatened; all three are listed as vulnerable and are expected to decline greatly in the next 20 years. None of the mesites have any legal protection, and none are the subject of ex-situ conservation. They are threatened by habitat loss and introduced species.
- White-breasted Mesite, Mesitornis variegata
Brown Mesite, Mesitornis unicolor
Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi