- Birds Articles and news

Topic : Land Birds

Article 47 bullet 30 July 2008


by Hugh Chittenden, Derek Coley and Guy Upfold

Gorgeous Bush-Shrike Telophorus viridis rates as one of the most strikingly beautiful woodland birds on the African continent, but to get a good view of its brilliantly coloured underparts in the field, however, is another matter.

Gorgeous Bush-Shrike delivering food.

An adult male Gorgeous Bush-Shrike delivering a small green caterpillar to the nest.

These shy and retiring birds are generally at home in short, dense woodland particularly along riparian margins. Their nests are thin, flimsy structures, little more that a pad of twigs and rootlets usually only a meter or two above the ground and invariably in a dense thorn tree, or thorny thicket. Like all Telophorus species, they lay blue eggs, speckled with darkish spots. The secret to finding their nests lies in listening for the deep grunting alarm notes the adults give when disturbed in close proximity to their nest. Once that is heard, it is usually then just a simple matter of marking the spot and searching every branch within a 20 m radius of where the call came from.

Male Gorgeous Bush-Shrike on nest

Both adults incubate, feed and brood the chicks.

In spite of the fact that Gorgeous Bush-Shrikes nest structures are small and fairly well concealed, the predation rate seems higher than that of similar bushveld thicket breeding species. Of the 8 nests we have found in the past 10 yrs or so, only 2 have fledged chicks successfully. 

Females Gorgeous Bush-Shrike

Female Gorgeous Bush-Shrikes are far less brightly coloured than their mates.

During November 2007 we photographed at a nest found by Derek in   Nkwaleni Valley, just north of Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This nest had the usual clutch of two eggs. Our policy is always to move away from the nest vicinity as quickly as possible and not to approach a nest with eggs to within 5 or 10 m if possible as these shy bush-shrike species are prone to abandoning nests, especially in the early stages of incubation.

Gorgeous Bush-Shrike eggs and chicks

An unusual clutch of three eggs (left), and the two chicks on the nest where a photographic hide was set up (right).

Gorgeous Bush-Shrikes invariably lay a clutch of two eggs. There are a few records of c/3 but larger clutches are probably only laid in ideal conditions when rains have been above average and invertebrate populations are good.

Gorgeous Bish-Shrike Brooding

Male Gorgeous Bush-Shrike Brooding young chicks in overcast weather

male Gorgeous Bush-Shrike feeding young

Male Gorgeous Bush-Shrike feeding a young chick on the nest




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