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Grey-Headed Bushshrike @ Ndumo Game Reserve. Photo: Håvard Rosenlund

Grey-Headed Bushshrike

Grey-Headed Bushshrike - Malaconotus blanchoti - Distribution MapThe grey-headed bushshrike (Malaconotus blanchoti) is a large species of bushshrike found in sub-Saharan Africa. It reaches a length of 23-26 cm (9-10 in). It has a large and strong bill with a distinct hook at the tip. It is a colorful bird with grey head and neck, green back, and yellow throat and undersides. Chest can sometimes be orange. Eyes are bright yellow. The call is a series of drawn-out and haunting whistles, “uuuuuuuuh“, which has given it its colloquial name “ghost bird”.

Diet and habitat

The grey-headed bushshrike prefers wooded savannahs and riverine forests, but is also found in gardens and plantations close to indigenous forests. It has a varied and adaptable diet, and will catch and eat anything it can tackle, such as snakes that are up to one meter long. Included in its diet are various invertebrates, small reptiles, bats and birds. Prey is often captured on leaves and branches, and sometimes impaled on thorns to be eaten later. Any prey too large to be swallowed whole will be ripped into smaller pieces before it is eaten.

Nesting

Both parents work together to create the nest. The male collects the materials while the female builds the structure. The nest is a fragile shallow cup made up of grass, leaves, twigs and lined with finer plant materials. It is often placed in the fork of a branch three to six meters above ground. Abandoned nests from doves, turacos and goshawks may also be used. Two to four eggs are laid and incubated by the female while the male brings food. After they are hatched one of the parents will stay with the chicks at all times (usually the female, although the reverse has been recorded), while the other hunts. The young stay in the nest for 20-24 days before leaving and may stay within their parent’s territory until the next breeding season.

Status

The grey-headed bushshrike is not too common, but it is widespread and occurs in many places. There are no threats to the species and it is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.

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