Physical Characteristics

Cuckoo-shrikes are small- to medium-sized birds, ranging in length from 5.5 to 14.5 inches (14 to 37 centimeters) and in weight from 0.2 to 6.3 ounces (6 to 180 grams). Some of the seventy-four species are very brightly colored, like the fiery minivet, while others are drab to protect them from predators (animals that hunt them for food), like the Mauritius cuckoo-shrike. Usually the females of this bird family are much less colorful than the males. In general, cuckoo-shrikes have broad-based bills that are slightly hooked and notched, and stiff, bristle-like feathers around their nostrils. Wings are pointed and long, and their tails are fairly long and rounded. Most cuckoo-shrikes have very stiff, erect feathers on their backs and rumps that scientists think may act as a means of defense because they detach easily.

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