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the web of life in southern Africa

Prionops scopifrons (Chestnut-fronted helmet-shrike) 

Stekelkophelmlaksman [Afrikaans]; Stekelkopklauwier [Dutch]; Bagadais à front roux [French]; Braunstirnwürger [German]; Atacador-de-testa-castanha [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 scopifrons (Chestnut-fronted helmet-shrike)   

Chestnut-fronted helmet-shrike, Arabuko-Sokoke forest, Kenya. [photo Steve Garvie ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs along Africa's eastern Coast, from Kenya to Mozambique. Here it is generally uncommon, occupying lowland evergreen forest, miombo (Brachystegia) woodland and tall riverine forest.

Distribution of Chestnut-fronted 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).


Not much is known about its diet, other than it eats mainly invertebrates, foraging mostly in the tree canopy gleaning insects from leaves and branches. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The breeding habits of this species have not been well studied, but it is known to be a cooperative breeder, with a number of helpers assisting the breeding pair.
  • The nest is a neat cup built of bark strips and grass cemented with spider web, placed in the in a fork of horizontal branch in the tree canopy. Usually all group members participate in the construction process.
  • Egg-laying season is from about October-December.
  • It lays about 3 eggs, which are incubated by group members, in shifts of about 20-170 minutes.
  • All the group members participate in the caring of the chicks, who still roost in the nest after fledging.


Although it is not listed as threatened locally or internationally, its numbers have been badly affected by fragmentation of lowland evergreen forest.


  • 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.