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Prionops plumatus (White-crested helmet-shrike, White helmet-shrike) 

Withelmlaksman [Afrikaans]; iPhemvu, uThimbakazane [Zulu]; Muduni [Kwangali]; Chiteveravadzimba [Shona]; Umthimbakazane [Swazi]; Urhiana (generic term for helmet-shrike) [Tsonga]; Helmklauwier [Dutch]; Bagadais casqué [French]; Brillenwürger [German]; Atacador-de-poupa-branca [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

Prionops plumatus (White-crested helmet-shrike, White helmet-shrike) Prionops plumatus (White-crested helmet-shrike, White helmet-shrike) 

White-crested helmet-shrike. [photo Lorinda Steenkamp ©]

White-crested helmet-shrike. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from parts of Somalia and the lowland forest of West-Central Africa. In southern Africa it is common from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Kruger National Park through Botswana to northern Namibia. It 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.

Distribution of White-crested helmet-shrike 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.  


It has been recorded as prey of the following animals:


It mainly eats invertebrates, especially moths and caterpillars. During Summer it mainly forages in the tree canopy, whereas in Winter it catches more of its prey on the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • It is a monogamous cooperative breeder, meaning that the breeding pair are helped by their siblings and/or youngsters from the previous year's breeding season, thus forming a group.  If one of the breeding pair dies, he/she is replaced with one of their siblings. Groups are territorial, noisily defending themselves against other groups and predators.
Prionops plumatus (White-crested helmet-shrike, White helmet-shrike)  

White-crested helmet-shrike in its nest, Nylsvley area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • The nest is a small cup made of bark bound together with spider web and lined with soft material. The breeding pair do most of the construction, usually placing it in the horizontal fork of a tree branch 2-10 metres above ground. The same nest sit is often used over multiple breeding seasons.
  • The breeding female lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated in shifts by all the group members over a period of about 16-21 days.
  • The chicks are cared for by all group members - while 1-2 of them are out foraging, one adult guards the nest from predators and another broods the chicks. They leave the nest at about 17-22 days old, becoming fully independent about a 5 months later.


Not threatened, in fact widespread and common.


  • 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.