White helmetshrike

White helmetshrike
Prionops plumatus
Photo by Ruslou Koorts (Flickr)

Common name:
white helmetshrike (en); atacador-de-poupa-branca (pt); bagadais casqué (fr); prionopo crestiblanco (es); brillenwürger (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Prionopidae

This African species is widespread across much of sub-Saharan Africa, being absent only from parts of Somalia and the lowland forests of west-central Africa.

These birds are 19-25 cm long and weigh 25-37 g.

The white helmetshrike is quite habitat-specific during the breeding season, preferring deciduous broad-leaved woodland, such as Miombo, Mopane and Burkea woodland. In the non-breeding season it moves more into other habitats, including Acacia savanna and suburban gardens. They are found from sea level up to an altitude of 1.800 m.

These birds search for food in the canopies of trees as well as on their branches and trunks, and on the ground. They mostly hunt caterpillars, moths, termites, mantids and grasshoppers, but will also eat spiders and lizards.


The white helmetshrike is a monogamous cooperative breeder, with the breeding pair being helped by their siblings and youngsters from the previous breeding season. The group is territorial, noisily defending themselves against other groups and predators. The breeding season varies according to the range. The breeding pair builds a small cup made of bark bound together with spider web and lined with soft material, placed on a fork of a tree branch 2-10 m above the ground. There the female lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated in shifts by all the group members for 16-21 days. The chicks are cared for by all group members and fledge 17-22 days after hatching, but only become fully independent about 5 months later.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and, although the global population size is yet to be quantified, the white helmetshrike is described frequent to common. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

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