White-breasted cuckooshrike

White-breasted cuckooshrike
Coracina pectoralis
Photo by Warwick Tarboton (Warwik Tarboton)

Common name:
white-breasted cuckooshrike (en); lagarteiro-cinzento-e-branco (pt); échenilleur à ventre blanc (fr); oruguero de pecho blanco (es); weißbrust-raupenfänger (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Campephagidae


This species is patchily distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, occurring along the Sahel belt, from West to East Africa. It also has a separate population south of the equator from Tanzania, Zambia and Angola to Zimbabwe, northern Botswana, northern Mozambique and South Africa.

The white-breasted cuckooshrike is 27 cm long and weighs 60 g.

They are mostly found in savanna and Mesic woodland, generally favouring well developed mopane (Colosphermum mopane) and miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, and occasionally occupying riverine forest.


The white-breasted cuckooshrike mainly eats caterpillars, gleaning them from the trunk, branches and leaves of trees, occasionally joining mixed-species foraging flocks. It also takes advantage of termite alate emergences, hawking them on the wing.

These birds breed in March-December. The nest is built solely by the female and consists of a shallow bowl made of twigs and leaf petioles, covered in old-man’s beard lichen (Usnea) and cemented with spider web. It is usually placed on a thick branch or in an horizontal fork, 6-20 m above ground. There the female lays 1-2 eggs which are incubated by both sexes for about 23 days. The chicks are fed by both parents, fledging about 24 days after hatching, and becoming independent 2-3 months later but still remaining with the adults until the next breeding season.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range. The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as generally frequent to uncommon in the north of its range, rare in Rwanda and Kenya, common in Angola, uncommon south from Malawi and rare in South Africa. This population is suspected to be in decline owing to habitat destruction, but it is not considered threatened at present.

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