African paradiseflycatcher

Terpsiphone viridis

TAXONOMY

Muscícapa cristata Gmelin, 1789, based on Brisson, 1760, Senegal. Ten subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Moucherolle de paradise; German: Graubrust-Paradeisschnapper; Spanish: Monarca Paraíso Africano.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Largest paradise-flycatcher in Africa, with tail that constitutes two-thirds of its length. Large head and crest glossy blue-black, eye surrounded by bright blue ring. Upperparts and graduated, outer tail feathers russet-brown, underparts gray. Most obvious markings are broad bar in each wing (white in some races, black in others) and two white, central tail streamers, which can be 3.5 in (9 cm) long in largest males. Females similar, but smaller, and colors are less bold and glossy.

DISTRIBUTION

Widespread south of the Sahara, the only flycatcher found in most of eastern and southern Africa.

HABITAT

Commonest flycatcher in Africa, found in almost all habitats except arid zones. Equally at home in savanna woodland, open forest, and plantations, prefers edges and avoids dense forest. Birds also nest and feed in orchards, parks and well-established gardens, up to 8,202 ft (2,500 m) in east Africa.

BEHAVIOR

Usually found in ones or twos, often tame and vocal but usually unobtrusive. Long tail makes for a distinctive and graceful flight, often slow and undulating, with tail streamers waving. Some populations migrate within Africa, usually between habitats during the dry season.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Glean insects from the foliage, flit among the leaves to catch prey, or perch in wait for a passing insect, catching it in mid air. Feed on caterpillars, beetles, moths, butterflies, flying ants and termites, up to 1.2 in (3 cm).

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Males patrol and defend territory with loud calls and songs, especially at dawn and dusk. Tail streamers and crest play important role in courtship display, combined with shivering wing tips, calls, and sometimes 'dancing' on a perch. Neat, tight cup nest is fixed with cobwebs to fork of a branch, into which two or three creamy white, oval eggs are laid. Both parents incubate eggs for about 15 days. Young stay in the nest for 11-15 days and remain dependent on the parents for a further week.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Common and widespread in a range of habitats.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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