Bokmakierie (Telophorus zeylonus)

Cover image: Bokmakierie by Dave Rimmer – BirdPix 21605


The Bokmakierie is a species of bushshrike, belonging to the Family Malaconotidae. This family of passerine birds is closely related to the true shrikes in the family Laniidae, and was once included in that group. This species is endemic to southern Africa, mainly in South Africa and Namibia, with an isolated population in the mountains of eastern Zimbabwe and western Mozambique.

Bokmakieries are brightly coloured, with an eye-catching black throat band which contrasts with the bright yellow throat and eye-stripe. The top of the head is grey. The back and rump are olive green. The lower breast and belly are bright yellow, with grey flanks.

The tail pattern is striking. The tail feathers are black with broad yellow tips forming a  band at the end of the tail. The central tail feathers, from base to tip are olive-green. This tail pattern is useful for indentification when the bird is flying away from you.

The bill is strong with a hooked tip and the legs are dark grey. The sexes are alike in plumage.


Near endemic to southern Africa, it occurs across most of South Africa but excluding much of Limpopo Province, and extending into southern and western Namibia and south-western Angola. 

SABAP2 distribution map for Bokmakierie
SABAP2 distribution map for Bokmakierie, downloaded 01 November 2022. Details for map interpretation can be found here.


It occupies a variety of habitats, however it prefers open areas with scattered shrubs and trees. It is abundant in the Karoo, Fynbos and Grassland Biomes, where it occupies scrubby habitat, and is commonly found in the Grassy Karoo among low bushes in association with rocky outcrops. The Bokmakierie is also a common garden bird in urban areas throughout its Succulent Karoo range.

Photo left – BirdPix 107842: Itxaso Quintana, Hanover, Northern Cape. Photo right – BirdPix 106917: Karis Daniel, Johan and Estelle van Rooyen, Stilbaai, Western Cape.
Enjoying the bird bath! – BirdPix 114623: Karina Zeelie, Stilbaai, Western Cape.


It is usually encountered in pairs. It is a conspicuous species owing to its bright coloration and its loud and frequent calls.

The Bokmakierie is an opportunistic feeder, it mainly eats insects but may also feed on lizards, snakes, birds and fruit. It catches most of its prey on the ground, rapidly pursuing before stunning and then eating them. It also gleans insects from leaves and branches and occasionally hawks prey aerially. 

A selection of prey items. Photos from left to right – BirdPix 126464: Terry & Maria Terblanche, Stilbaai, Western Cape. BirdPix 125511: Cobus Elstadt, Humansdorp, Eastern Cape. BirdPix 89642: Gerald Wingate, Darling, Western Cape.

Breeding occurs mostly in spring/summer. Both sexes construct the nest, which is a cup made of small twigs, leaves, roots, tendrils, grass and bark, sometimes incorporating man-made materials such as twine, paper and cardboard. It is usually placed in a dense shrub, concealed by thick vegetation. Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking during August.

Further Resources

Species text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

More common names: Bokmakierie (Afrikaans); Ingqwangi (Xhosa); iNkovu (Zulu); Gladiateur bacbakiri (French); Pjempjete (South Sotho).

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Daniel KA 2022. Bokmakierie Telophorus zeylonus. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

List of bird species in this format is available here.

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.