Mohoua is a small genus of three bird species endemic to New Zealand. The scientific name is taken from mohua – the Māori name for the yellowhead.[1] Their taxonomic placement has presented problems: They have typically been placed in the whistler family, Pachycephalidae, but in 2013 it was established that they are best placed in their own family, Mohouidae.[2]

Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Infraorder: Corvides
Family: Mohouidae
Mathews, 1946
Genus: Mohoua
Lesson, 1837

All three species display some degree of sexual dimorphism in terms of size, with the males being the larger of the two sexes.[3] Mohoua are gregarious (more so outside the breeding season) and usually forage in groups. They also forage in mixed species flocks at times, frequently forming the nucleus of such flocks.[1] Social organization and behaviour is well documented for all three Mohoua species; cooperative breeding has been observed in all three species and is common in the Whitehead and Yellowhead.[1] The three species of this genus are the sole hosts for the long-tailed cuckoo which acts as a brood parasite upon them, pushing their eggs out of the nest and laying a single one of its own in their place so that they take no part in incubation of their eggs or in raising their young.[3]


ImageScientific nameCommon nameDistribution
Mohoua albicilla (Lesson, 1830)WhiteheadNew Zealand
Mohoua novaeseelandiae (Gmelin, 1789)Pipipi or New Zealand brown creeperSouth Island of New Zealand
Mohoua ochrocephala (Gmelin, 1789)YellowheadSouth Island of New Zealand


  1. "Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds"; Volume 7, edited by Peter Higgins, OUP, 2000
  2. Zachary Aidala et al. Phylogenetic relationships of the genus Mohoua, endemic hosts of New Zealand’s obligate brood parasitic Long-tailed Cuckoo (Eudynamys taitensis). Journal of Ornithology, published online June, 2013; doi: 10.1007/s10336-013-0978-8
  3. Barrie Heather and Hugh Robertson, "The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand" (revised edition), Viking, 2005
  • Del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Christie D. (editors). (2007). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-42-2