One of the most beautiful birds in all of South Africa is also unfortunately one of the least seen and photographed. The Gorgeous Bushshrike (Telophorus viridis) is known as much for its stunning colouration as its skulking, secretive and shy behaviour.
The Gorgeous Bushshrike is part of the Malaconotidae family that includes the puffbacks, tchagras, boubous, gonoleks and all the other bushshrikes. The quadricolor subspecies of the Gorgeous Bushshrike is the one that occurs in South Africa and Swaziland. It prefers thick undergrowth and dense vegetation in woodland areas, particularly along riparian margins and in coastal evergreen forests.
The Gorgeous Bushshrike is, as the name suggests, a stunning species, with the unmistakable male sporting a dark olive-green crown, hindneck and upperparts, a yellow forehead line, blackish tail, a crimson red and black pattern on the throat and chest and an orange-yellowish belly suffused with green. The poor female is as always, far duller!
The song is also beautiful; a loud far-carrying liquid ko, kok or kong followed immediately by 1 or 2 upslurred kowick or kowee notes. The call is also often described as an emphatic kon-kon-koit repeated for long periods; “Konkoit” is actually the bird’s Afrikaans name. These calls are often the only way you know that there is a Gorgeous Bushshrike nearby…
Their diet consists of moths, caterpillars, beetles, wasps and spiders. They are agile hunters, moving silently and quickly in trees, on branches and within leaf litter on the ground.
The breeding season in South Africa is from October to December. After a spectacular territorial and courtship display by the male, breeding commences. The nest is a rather thin platform of twigs, roots, stalks, leaves and grasses, hidden 60–160 cm above the ground on a woody fork or among twigs or creepers. The clutch is usually 2 eggs, with incubation done mainly by the female. The chicks are brooded by the female and fed by both parents. The fledglings remain with the parents for at least four months.
Luckily the Gorgeous Bushshrike is not threatened and the best place to see one in South Africa is probably in the Soutpansberg-Blouberg foothills, the northern Lowveld and eastern Kwazulu-Natal.
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