Physical characteristics

Cuckoo-shrikes are small- to medium-sized birds. The bill is broad at the base, notched and slightly hooked, and rictal bristles are well developed. The wings are rather long and pointed, and the tail is moderately long, rounded or graduated. In most genera the back and rump feathers have very stiff shafts and soft tips, and are partially erectile. These spine-like feathers are easily shed and may act as a means of defense.

The minivets are a distinctive group. Most species have brilliantly colored plumage; males are striking red and black, and females are yellow or orange and black or gray. Most other cuckoo-shrikes are less brightly colored, and the female is often a paler, washed-out version of the male. Male flycatcher-shrikes and trillers are typically black and white, while females have the black replaced by gray or brown; female trillers are often barred below. Most Coracina species (often called gray-birds) are gray or gray and white.

In four Campephaga species, males are glossy black with brightly colored gape wattles, while females are olive-yellow and white, most with strong blackish barring. The other two species are sometimes separated into a different genus (Lo-botos) in view of their predominantly green, yellow, and orange plumage, prominent facial wattles, and lack of strong sexual dimorphism.

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