In this genus the principal distinguishing feature is the long, slender bill, either as long as, or longer than, the head, much curved downwards and always compressed. The nostril is bare and exposed, whilst the feathers of the forehead are short, rounded and close. The tail is longer than the wing and much, graduated, the outer feathers never exceeding three-quarters the length of the central pair.
The young of the genus generally have more rufous or dark colour on the breast and abdomen than the adults. The bill is, not fully grown for some months.
Key to Species.
A. With a white supercilium.
a. Bill comparatively short, about equal to head.
a1 Breast, throat and abdomen white.
a2. Sides of neck chestnut, contrasting with upper plumage.
a3. Chestnut of neck produced as a band down flanks.
a4. Chestnut band streaked with
white P. schisticeps, p. 205.
b4. Band not streaked P. nuchalis, p. 208.
b3. Chestnut confined to neck P. olivaceus, p. 209.
b2. Sides of neck not chestnut P. horsfieldi, p. 210.
b1. Throat white; breast ferruginous, not
striped P. ferruginous, p.213.
c1. Throat white; breast striped with olive- brown P. ruficollis, p. 216.
b. Bill more slender and about half as long
again as head P. ochraceiceps, p. 217.
B. No white supercilium.
c. Bill not longer than head and slender.. P. erythrogenys, p.219.
d. Bill longer than head and very coarse.. P, hypoleucus, p. 222.
Key to Subspecies
A.. Chestnut band deep maroon-chestnnt.
a. Wing over 4 inches.
a1.Darker and more olivaceous above. P. s. schisticeps, p.206.
b1 Paler and more rufous above....P,s. cryptanthus. p.207.
b. Wing under 4 inches P. s. pinwilli, p. 208.
B. Chestnut band much paler P. s. mearsi, p. 207.