Longevities of shrikes, bush-shrikes and helmet-shrikes

Southern Boubou

The shrikes, bush-shrikes and helmet-shrikes were formerly all classed together in one family, but have been split into separate bird families (shrikes, bush-shrikes) and the helmet-shrikes have been moved into the Vangidae family. After a brief description of each of these groups, the ringing numbers and longevities will be presented.

The true shrikes (family Laniidae) are predatory passerines – the family name derives from the Latin word for “butcher”, referring to their feeding habits. Shrikes are known for catching insects and small vertebrates and impaling these on thorns, barbed-wire fences, or other sharp points. This allows them to tear the prey into smaller pieces, and serves as a cache for feeding on later. Most shrike species are found in Eurasia and Africa, although two species occur in North America.

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Common Fiscal

The bush-shrikes (family Malaconotidae) are insectivorous species are found in Africa, in scrub or open woodland. They are similar in habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush. The bush-shrikes are either colourful species or largely black; some species are quite secretive. The bush-shrikes include the Brubru, puffbacks, tchagras and boubous.

Southern Boubou
Southern Boubou, greatest longevity in southern Africa of the “shrike” groups

The helmet-shrikes are now separated from that group into the family Vangidae. These African birds are found in scrub or open woodland. They are similar in feeding habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush or tree. They are colourful species with the distinctive crests or other head ornaments, such as wattles, from which they get their name. Helmet-shrikes are noisy and sociable birds, some of which breed in loose colonies.

White Helmet-shrike


Relative to commonly ringed birds in southern Africa, few shrikes have been ringed over the last 7 decades. The highest ringing totals are for the widespread Common Fiscal, with over 7000 ringed. This species also has the highest recapture number although the Southern Boubou has a slightly higher recapture rate (12.6%). The Southern Boubou has the highest longevity record in the SAFRING database, at 16 years.

Table – ringing data for shrikes from the SAFRING database, extracted 5/7/2019.

Species Latin Ringed / retraps / recovered Longevity Ringno
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor 350 / 3 / 0 0y 0m 8d CV38328
Common Fiscal Lanius collaris 7129 / 834 / 89 12y 7m 2d BB73315
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio 2431 / 144 / 8 7y 6m 0d 58219185
Southern Boubou Laniarius ferrugineus 2458 / 309 / 23 16y 0m 16d 4A13311
Swamp Boubou Laniarius bicolor 103 / 10 / 1 2y 7m 23d BB70663
Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus 1214 / 79 / 6 8y 2m 17d 494589
Southern Puffback Dryoscopus cubla 2246 / 205 / 9 8y 0m 21d BD13331
Southern Tchagra Tchagra tchagra 229 / 20 / 1 5y 0m 3d CC73515
Three-streaked Tchagra Tchagra australis 1965 / 169 / 6 7y 0m 19d CV50705
Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala 309 / 24 / 1 3y 1m 29d 469906
Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta 12 / 1 / 0 0y 11m 23d BE46526
Olive Bush Shrike Telophorus olivaceus 578 / 34 / 0 9y 8m 24d BB95191
Orange-breasted Bush Shrike Telophorus sulfureopectus 617 / 57 / 1 6y 11m 15d BE33105
Black-fronted Bush Shrike Telophorus nigrifrons 7 / 0 / 0
Gorgeous Bush Shrike Telophorus quadricolor 176 / 13 / 0 4y 4m 5d CV28603
Bokmakierie Telophorus zeylonus 1311 / 118 / 13 8y 1m 16d 4A50927
Grey-headed Bush Shrike Malaconotus blanchoti 310 / 17 / 1 4y 0m 10d 460954
Long-tailed Shrike Corvinella melanoleuca 916 / 84 / 2 2y 2m 23d D44690
Yellow-spotted Nicator Nicator gularis 135 / 6 / 0 3y 9m 29d 4H53721
White-tailed Shrike Lanioturdus torquatus 158 / 9 / 0 4y 10m 10d BH49364
White Helmet-shrike Prionops plumatus 1226 / 9 / 0 5y 0m 29d BC33931
Red-billed Helmet-shrike Prionops retzii 107 / 1 / 0
Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike Prionops scopifrons 28 / 0 / 0
White-crowned Shrike Eurocephalus anguitimens 429 / 22 / 1 6y 1m 25d 594922
Brubru Nilaus afer 287 / 15 / 1 8y 6m 5d BC26973
Fulleborn’s Black Boubou Laniarius fuelleborni 10 / 1 / 0

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Dieter Oschadleus
Dieter Oschadleus
Dieter Oschadleus leads the BDI bird ringing expeditions, and is able to organise bird ringing courses (having run many courses in South Africa, and some in the Seychelles). Dieter is also a registered bird guide in South Africa, and has birded widely in Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.