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Aves Bird of the week - Crimson-breasted Shrike

Crimson-breasted Shrike – Laniarius atrococcineus – is a Near Endemic in Southern Africa. The head, bill and back are black while the underparts are entirely scarlet. The sexes have the same colouration and are indistinguishable from each other. A yellow-breasted form is occasionally seen. Young birds have a mottled and barred buff-brown appearance with a pale bill.


This striking shrike occurs in a band across southern Africa from Northern South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The striking colour combination reminded Germans in South West Africa, [Namibia], of their homeland flag and it therefore became the Reichsvogel or "Empire bird".


Its preferred habitat is drier thornbush areas, in thickets and riparian scrub. It makes small seasonal migrations, preferring lower altitudes during cold periods.


Food consists of invertebrates, especially beetles, ants and caterpillars and also small fruits. 


The main call is loud and fast tyotyo or quipquipand variations thereof.


The breeding season is from August to January and peaks between October and November. Both sexes construct the nest which is a neat cup of bark strips, bound with cobweb and lined with grass and rootlets. It is normally positioned about 2m above the ground. These shrikes lay 2 to 3 eggs and are incubated by both sexes for 15 to 17 days. The chicks are brooded and fed by both parents.


It is widespread and common in its range and does not seem to be threatened in anyway.

This striking bird can be seen on the following Aves Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Arid Tour/Safari/Adventure.

Aves North East Tour/Safari/Adventure.

Aves North West Tour/Safari/Adventure.

Yellow-breasted Shrike photographed by P. Sievers



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