Crimson-breasted Shrike

Information about the Bird Crimson-breasted Shrike

The crimson-breasted shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus) or the crimson-breasted gonolek, ('gonolek' - supposedly imitative of its call), is a southern African bird. The species is closely related to two other bushshrikes, the yellow-crowned gonolek (Laniarius barbarus) and the black-headed gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster) of East Africa.

The species was first collected by William John Burchell in 1811 near the confluence of the Vaal and Orange Rivers. He named it atrococcineus meaning 'black/red', finding the striking colour combination quite remarkable. The generic name Laniarius was coined by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot and was meant to call attention to the butcher-like habits of the group. In South West Africa its colours reminded Germans of their homeland flag and it therefore became the Reichsvogel ("Empire bird").
The sexes have the same colouration and are indistinguishable from each other. A yellow-breasted form is occasionally seen, and was at first thought to be a separate species. Young birds have a mottled and barred buff-brown appearance with a pale bill.
This shrike is extremely nimble and restless, its penetrating whistles often being the first sign of its presence, although it is not a shy species.
The crimson-breasted shrike occurs in a broad swathe from southern Angola to the Free State province in South Africa. Its preferred habitat is drier thornbush areas, in thickets and riparian scrub. It makes small seasonal migrations, preferring lower altitudes during cold periods.

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