The lesser shortwing

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A lesser shortwing is seen perched on a low branch in Wutong Mountain, Luohu District.  Photos by Isaac Cohen

The lesser shortwing

The lesser shortwing (Brachypteryx leucophris) is a small passerine bird species in Southeast Asia.


Its compact body measures around 13 centimeters long, with the males possessing a stunning color combination of a blue-gray head, wings and tail, complemented by a vibrant orange chest and belly. In contrast, females are more subdued, sporting a predominantly brown plumage. Both genders feature a distinctive white patch on their forehead, adding to their unique charm.


A lesser shortwing is seen at Wutong Mountain, Luohu District.

A partially migratory species, these birds reside all year round in the montane forests of Southeast Asia. However, during the breeding season, a portion of the population undertakes altitudinal migrations, moving to higher elevations to establish territories and breed, where more suitable habitats are available.


A lesser shortwing is seen at Wutong Mountain, Luohu District.

Breeding typically occurs between April and July during the rainy season. Males establish territories within their chosen breeding habitats, building a cup-shaped nest hidden in the undergrowth, where the female lays and incubates up to three eggs. Both parents participate in the feeding and care of the hatchlings until they fledge.


A lesser shortwing is seen at Wutong Mountain, Luohu District.

This shy and elusive bird often stays concealed amidst the dense forest undergrowth and is hard to spot in the wild. Primarily terrestrial, it prefers to hop and run along the forest floor, occasionally perching on low branches.


They sustain themselves on a varied diet of insects, spiders, worms and other small invertebrates. They forage primarily on the forest floor, using their sharp beak to probe the leaf litter and soil in search of prey.


A lesser shortwing is seen at Wutong Mountain, Luohu District.

As an insectivorous bird, the lesser shortwing helps control insect populations, contributing to ecological balance. Furthermore, by dispersing seeds through their droppings, they help boost plant diversity. Their populations also serve as an indicator of the overall health of montane ecosystems.