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the web of life in southern Africa

Laniarius ferrugineus (Southern boubou) 

Suidelike waterfiskaal [Afrikaans]; Igqubusha [Xhosa]; iBhoboni (also applied to Black-backed puffback), iGqumusha [Zulu]; Hwilo, Samjukwa, Xighigwa [Tsonga]; Waterfiskaal [Dutch]; Gonolek boubou [French]; Flötenwürger [German]; Picanço-ferrugíneo [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 ferrugineus (Southern boubou) 

Southern boubou, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Laniarius ferrugineus (Southern boubou)  Laniarius ferrugineus (Southern boubou) 

Southern boubou. [photo Johann du Preez ©]

Southern boubou at nest with chick. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring from south-eastern Botswana through Limpopo and North-West Provinces to southern Mozambique, extending down the coast to KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern and Western Capes. It occupies a wide variety of woodland habitats, as well as coastal thickets, riverine scrub, alien tree plantations and suburban gardens.

Distribution of Southern 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 Jacobin cuckoo.


Highly adaptable, it eats a variety of animals and occasionaly plants, most of which are caught on the ground. It also gleans insects off leaves and bark and occasionally hawks flying insects. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Animals
    • Invertebrates
      • Hymenoptera
        • bees
        • ants
        • wasps
          • Braconidae
          • Tiphiidae
          • Ichneumonidae
      • Lepidoptera
        • caterpillars
        • eggs and larvae
      • Coleoptera (beetles)
        • dung beetles (Scarabaeidae)
        • toktokkie beetles (Tenebrionidae)
        • weevils (Curculionidae)
        • plant-eating beetles
      • Orthoptera (crickets and grasshoppers)
        • Acanthacris ruficornis (Garden locust)
        • other grasshoppers
      • earthworms
      • ticks
      • snails
        • Helix adspersa
        • Theba pisana
    • Vertebrates
  • Plants
    • Fruit
      • Lycium campanulatum (honey-thorn)
      • Scutia myrtina (Cat-thorn)
    • Seeds
      • Datura ferox (Stinkblaar)
      • loose grain
    • Nectar
      • Aloe arborescens (Krantz aloe)
      • Aloe ferox (Bitter aloe
    • Young plant shoots
  • Miscellaneous
    • breadcrumbs
    • discarded porridge


  • The nest is built solely by the female and is an untidy, loosely woven bowl made of twigs, roots and grasses, sometimes bound with spider web. It is usually placed in a fork of a tree or bush, concealed by foliage. If the nest is repeatedly disturbed, the breeding pair rip it apart and, using the same materials, rebuild it nearby.
  • Egg-laying season is from about August-March, peaking around September-December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 16-17 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest at about 16-17 days old, becoming semi-independent after about 8 weeks, after which they remain with their parents for roughly 3 weeks 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.