Grayheaded bushshrike

Malaconotus blanchoti

SUBFAMILY

Malaconotinae

TAXONOMY

Malaconotus blanchoti Stephens, 1826, Senegal. Up to seven races described with regular intergradation at common boundaries. Main differences concern color of underparts.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Gladiateur de Blanchot; German: Graukopfwürger; Spanish: Gladiador de Cabeza Gris.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

9-10.2 in (23-26 cm) on average 2.7 oz (77 g). One of the largest is the Malaconotus shrike, which has a heavy bill. Sexes are similar. Head and nape is grayish; eyes are pale yellow and lores are white. Upperparts and wings are mainly olive green; wings show yellow spots to coverts. Underparts are yellow with a varying amount of orange on breast. Juveniles are similar, but duller and with brown eyes. Adult of nominate form, in West Africa, has no or little orange on its underparts, which are very dark in the eastern African race approximans. Race hypopyrrhus from Tanzania southwards has less intensively colored under-parts.

DISTRIBUTION

Widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, but absent from the Horn, the Congo basin, and the southwestern area of the continent.

HABITAT

Various types of woodlands, including riverine woods; can also occur in large parks or suburban gardens.

BEHAVIOR

Seen solitary, in pairs, or in family groups. Territory covers about 124 acres (50 ha) and is advertised by various sounds, particularly by mournful, far-carrying whistles. Generally elusive, it hides in dense thickets, but may be relatively conspicuous during courtship activities, which include a display flight. Looks for food at all levels of vegetation, also occasionally on ground. Remarkably, caches food like Lanius shrikes; small vertebrates can be wedged into forks. Local movements have been suspected; they might be related to the onset of rains.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Arthropods: scorpions, worms, centipedes, but mainly insects. Small birds and reptiles are also regularly taken.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous, though little is known. The nest is an untidy cup, generally placed at about 13 ft (4 m) above the ground in a small, deciduous tree; it receives two to four, and most often three eggs. The laying season varies with the geographical area. Female alone appears to incubate for about 16 days. Nestling season is about 20 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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