“Hi” and “bye” to everyone who found this page looking for alternative entertainment.

If you weren’t, or would like a cover for seeking said entertainment, you could do worse than reading about this little Peruvian bird. True to almost all the awesome-named animals so far, we know [drum roll…] very little about it, apart from the stuff it doesn’t do and isn’t.

Is the name ironic, or prehistoric?

With the family name Tyrannidae, you’d expect the tit-tyrant to be a descendant of the Tyrant Lizard King. As amusing as that would have been, it’s actually named for its relatives, so-called “kingbirds”,

An eastern kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus), by Murray Foubister.

who have no qualms hassling much larger raptors and other animals. The unstreaked tit-tyrant, however, belongs to the “flycatcher” group, but surprise! It doesn’t really fit the bill for that either.

Snatches of conversation

Although it guzzles down insects, it doesn’t always do it on the “fly”, instead picking them off the ground, or in its favourite haunt, thickets of Chusquea bamboo. It’s also easier to chat to your group mates when foraging like this, as the unstreaked tit-tyrant tends to do in pairs or groups of up to six. It’s a sociable little tweeter, in fact.

Birds of a feather rock together?

Unusually for a tit-tyrant, it flocks in mixed species groups, such as with the plushcap, citrine warbler, and the odd, actual flycatcher. It’s a noisy flitter too, with a high-pitched tzrieee!, but unfortunately for its neighbours, it doesn’t do requests. As a “suboscine” rather than an “oscine” – two sides of the largest bird group Passeriformes – it has an innate rather than a learned song, although it’s more a of a squeak than a tweet, to be fair. So it can’t exactly change the record. But if it changes its style, you’re in trouble.

Keep your hair on

Most other tit-tyrants have a floofy head crest with a white centre. The unstreaked tit-tyrant’s crest, on the other hand, is a thinner, solid black, and usually lies flat – unless it’s in combat mode with another unstreaked tit-tyrant.

That’s pretty much all we know about it, even when it comes to breeding. Aside from an August sighting of a fledgling, we’re not sure when or how it does what bees also apparently do. But could there be a reason for its outlying nature?

Storm shelter

Given that the Amazon is burning as we speak, it seems like the last place to escape drastic temperature changes. But the unstreaked tit-tyrant may have dodged previous cataclysmic shifts by staying in the safety of its own home: cool, wet, and mostly inaccessible high altitude forests, which formed pockets of stable temperatures when they were going chaotic elsewhere. That’s at least one theory as to how it evolved differently from its cohorts, but others won’t be forthcoming unless we actually take a closer look. If there’s any forest left to find it in by then!

If it ever felt the need to live up to its namesake and crush its enemies, now would be the time. And to be clear, I’m still talking about the “tyrant” part.

TLDR

Latin: Uromyias agraphia (formerly Anairetes agraphia)

What? Tiny, fly-eating bird from the Peruvian Andes.

Where? Cool and wet high altitude forests, or areas with Chusquea bamboo, up to 3,450 m / 11,318 ft in the eastern Peruvian Andes.

How big? Teeny, with a 12 cm / 4.7 inch wingspan.

Endangered? Considered common enough in its home range to be Least Concern, but this may change if we can find out more.

Probable motto: I’m named after what I don’t have, or am not. I should get a hobby.

They look cute. Do they need my help at all?

As far as we know, it seems stable and out of reach, but as I mentioned earlier, the AMAZON IS BURNING. So its neighbourhood could still use some love:

Amazon Conservation Association

WWF: Five Ways to Help the Amazon

Just to prove I’m not fibbing:

BirdLife International. 2016. “Uromyias agraphiaThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species” 2016: e.T22699376A93728894

Fitzpatrick, J. 2019. “Unstreaked Tit-tyrant (Uromyias agraphia)“. In: del Hoyo, J., et al. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

New subspecies of Schizoeaca fuliginosa and Uromyias agraphia from Brazil“. 1976. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club. Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Roy, Michael S. et al. 1999. “Molecular Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of the Tit-Tyrants (Aves: Tyrannidae)“. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 11(1):67-76.

Schulenberg,T.S. et al. 2007. “Birds of Peru: Revised and Updated“. Princeton University Press.

Schulenberg, T. S. and T. Johnson. 2011. “Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant (Uromyias agraphia)“, version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae).” 2019. Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia.com.

Featured image credit: “Unstreaked tit-tyrant” by Nick Athanas.