Northern puffback

Dryoscopus gambensis

SUBFAMILY

Malaconotinae

TAXONOMY

Lanius gambensis Lichtenstein, 1823, Senegambia. Taxonomy still unclear; up to five races described; variation relatively well marked, but only in color of underparts and upperparts of females. Appears to be very close both to Pringle's puffback (D. pringli), an uncommon resident in eastern Africa, and to the black-backed puffback (D. cubla), which is widespread south of the equator.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Gambian puffback-shrike; French: Cubla de Gambie; German: Gambia-Schneeballwürger; Spanish: Obispillo Común.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

7-7.5 in (18-19 cm); 0.95-1.37 oz (27-39 g). The red-eyed male has mainly glossy black upperparts, but scapulars, rump,

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

wing-coverts, and edges of wing-feathers are pale gray; under-parts are creamy white. Female is duller with orange eyes, gray-brown upperparts, and mainly creamy reddish under-parts; the intensity of these colors varies with races. Young birds are similar to the adult female, but have reddish tips on upperparts and brown eyes. In the eastern race erythrea, the female strongly resembles the male; her upperparts are, however, dark brown instead of black, and her underparts are generally creamier.

DISTRIBUTION

Most common puffback north of the equator; found in a broad belt stretching from Senegambia to Eritrea and Ethiopia; almost absent from the Horn. Nominate from Senegal to Cameroon; most distinct race, erythrea from eastern Sudan to northwestern Somalia.

HABITAT

All types of savanna woodland and areas with large trees, including gardens; avoids closed forests. In Eritrea occurs up to about 4,900 ft (1,500 m).

BEHAVIOR

Generally solitary or occurring in pairs, keeping to the tree canopy. Only relatively easily spotted and seen for a few seconds in breeding season when very demonstrative. Males fly from tree to tree with back and rump feathers fluffed out. Thought to be sedentary, but local movements are possible.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Arthropods, mainly insects and particularly caterpillars gleaned from foliage.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Territorial and probably monogamous. Little known. Few nests found; generally high up in trees; plastered with spider web. Appears to breed in any month of the year.

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