home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Laniarius aethiopicus (Tropical boubou) 

Tropiese waterfiskaal [Afrikaans]; Nankuwo (generic term for boubou) [Kwangali]; Ethiopische fiskaal [Dutch]; Gonolek d'Abyssinie [French]; Orgelwürger, Tropischer flötenwürger [German]; Picanço-tropical [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Malaconotidae

Laniarius aethiopicus (Tropical boubou)  

Tropical boubou, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Liberia to East Africa south to southern Africa, where it is locally common in Zimbabwe and northern Mozaabique extending into Botswana and northern Limpopo Province. It often occupies habitats with dense vegetation, such as montane forest, suburban gardens, thick coastal scrub, savanna and miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, but in arid areas it is more common in riverine scrub.

Distribution of Tropical boubou in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Black cuckoo.


An adaptable hunter, it eats a variety of animals such as rodents, insects and other birds. It often catches its prey off leaves and branches then places them in a small tree fork, where it tears them apart with its bill. It also exploits gatherings of insects in roadside drains or gutters, especially after heavy rains. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
  • Snails
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Rodents
  • Bird eggs and nestlings


  • The nest is a scruffy collection of twigs and rootlets, bound loosely together with strands of spider web. It is usually placed in the fork of a thorny branch, concealed by creepers and other vegetation. The female does most of the nest construction, often starting to build multiple nests before deciding on the optimal one to use that breeding season. The next year, the same female salvages material from her previous nests, using them to construct a string of a new ones.
  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from about October-November.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated mainly the female for roughly 14-16 days.
  • During the first few days of their lives, the chicks are mainly fed insects; the size of food items delivered to them increases as they get older until eventually they eat bird nestlings and rodents. Although they can fend for themselves a about 7 weeks old, they still remain dependent on their parents for about 3.5 months more.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.