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Boubou

   

The Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus) is a bushshrike. This family of passerine birds is closely related to the true shrikes in the family Laniidae, and were once included in that group.

This species is found in southeastern Africa, mainly in southeastern Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, Mozambique and southern and eastern South Africa. It frequents dense thickets in forests, mangroves, scrub and gardens. In drier regions, it is found in riverside woodland.

The nest, built mainly by the female, is a shallow cup in a creeper or dense bush into which the usually two brown-blotched greenish-white eggs are laid. Both sexes incubate for 16–17 days to hatching, and both bring food to the chicks. Fledging takes place in about another 16 days. About 2% of nests are parasitised by the Black Cuckoo.

The male Southern Boubou is a fairly distinctive 20–22 cm long bird with black upperparts extending from the top of the head down to the tail, a striking white wing stripe, and a relatively long black tail with white outer feathers. The underparts are white shading to rufous on the lower belly, undertail and flanks. The bill, eyes and legs are black. It resembles the Common Fiscal, Lanius collaris, but is shorter tailed, has more white in the wing, and is much less conspicuous in its habits.

The female is similar to the male, but dark grey above and with a rufous wash to the breast. Young birds are like the female, but mottled buff-brown above, have a buff wash to the wing bar, and are barred below.

The rufous on the underparts, which gives this species its scientific name, distinguishes it from the Tropical and Swamp Boubous.

There are six subspecies, differing in size, upperpart colour, the extent of rufous on the underparts, and the degree of sexual dimorphism. The Southern Boubou has a duetted call, with a ooo-whee-ooo, followed by a whistled ooo-ooo-wheee or wheee-wheee followed by ooo-whee-ooo. The duet has many variations and the liquid ooo-whee-ooo call is often mistaken for that of the Black-headed Oriole.

Unlike the true shrikes, which perch conspicuously in the open, the Southern Boubou prefers to forage in dense vegetation close to the ground, a habit which has led to its being called shy and skulking. The food is mainly insects, taken from the ground or picked off vegetation as the bird creeps low in bushes. It will also take small rodents, lizards snails and fruits.

This is an African group of species which are found in scrub or open woodland. They are similar in habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush. Although similar in build to the shrikes, these tend to be either colourful species or largely black. Some species are also quite secretive.

   
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