Rufous vanga

Schetba rufa

TAXONOMY

Schetba rufa Linnaeus, 1766. The rufous vanga is the sole occupant of its genus. It has two subspecies, the nominate and long-billed form in eastern Madagascar and S. r. occidentalis, somewhat shorter-billed, in the central parts of the west.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Artamie rousse; German: Rotvanga; Spanish: Vanga Rufa.

Schetba rufa

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The rufous vanga is a medium-sized vanga, with short wings and a medium-length tail, and a strong head and neck. It has a thick and slightly hook-tipped bill, and large eyes. The head, throat, and breast of the male is glossy black, while the female has a black cap and a ghost of the male pattern in pale gray on the throat and breast. The under-parts of both sexes are white, and the backs and tails bright rusty red. The bill is pale blue and the legs blackish.

DISTRIBUTION

The eastern form of the species is found in lowland forest from Marojejy National Park in northern Madagascar to Ando-hahela National Park in the south. The western subspecies occurs in primary western deciduous forest from just north of the Mangoky river to the Sambirano rainforest belt in the northwest.

HABITAT

In the eastern rainforests, the rufous vanga is rather patchily distributed in lowland forests. It seems to be exclusively limited to forests with large trees and a fairly open understory; in these conditions it is fairly abundant. It has not been recorded at higher altitudes than about 3,300 ft (1,000 m), and is most common in forests about sea-level.

In the west, rufous vangas are found only in areas of primary deciduous forest. It is rarely found in degraded or open

BEHAVIOR

The rufous vanga is characteristically perched on a low liana or branch. Often the birds travel in family groups, and individuals may sit on particular perches for several minutes. In the early

morning and late afternoon birds move into the canopy to sing. Much food is taken from the ground.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Rufous vangas sit still for long periods looking for movement of potential prey. Finding such prey is difficult if the substrate against which prey might be detected is itself moving, so foraging outside the calm forest interior is likely to be unproductive. In addition, the stable territories of rufous vangas need to contain food resources all year round, and, during the dry season, only shaded and cool areas maintain enough humidity to permit enough insect life to survive on the forest floor.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Rufous vangas occupy apparently stable territories in the forest interior. The nest is built in a tree fork or exceptionally in a rock crevice, of spiders webs, lichens, small flakes of bark, etc. Both sexes contribute to construction, resulting in a neat hemispheric or inverted conical bowl. Usually two or three eggs are laid, off-white with darker reddish markings. During the nestling phase, young males from the previous year, distinguishable by the black spotting on the breast, help feed the young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Despite being limited to the interior of lowland rainforest and dry deciduous forest, the rufous vanga is not currently considered threatened, as it has a fairly large range (including many protected areas) and is common where it occurs. However this situation could change, particularly in the west where forest destruction, even in reserves, is occurring rapidly.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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