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Telophorus zeylonus (Bokmakierie)

Bokmakierie [Afrikaans]; Ingqwangi [Xhosa]; iNkovu [Zulu]; Ptjemptjete, Pjempjete [South Sotho]; Pšempšetle [North Sotho]; bokmakierie-klauwier [Dutch]; Gladiateur bacbakiri [French]; Bokmakiri [German]; Boquemaquire [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

Telophorus zeylonus (Bokmakierie)
Bokmakierie, Addo Elephant Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]. Bokmakierie juvenile. [photo Callie de Wet ©]
Telophorus zeylonus (Bokmakierie)
Bokmakiere juvenile, Tankwa Karoo National Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©].

Distribution and habitat

Near endemic to southern Africa, it occurs across South Africa excluding much of the Limpopo Province, extending into southern and western Namibia and south-western Angola. It also has an isolated population around the Chimanimani Mountain along the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border. It occupies a variety of habitats, however it prefers open areas with scattered shrubs and trees, such as dune scrub, succulent Karoo, renosterveld, Protea scrub, open bushveld, alien tree plantations, bushclump grassveld, orchards, vineyards, gardens, parks and bushy, rock-strewn hillsides.

Distribution of Bokmakierie 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.


An opportunistic feeder, it mainly eats insects but may also feed on lizards, snakes, birds and fruit. It catches most of its prey on the ground, rapidly pursuing before stunning and eating them. It also gleans insects from leaves and branches and occasionally hawks prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Both sexes construct the nest (see images below), which is a cup made of small twigs, leaves, roots, tendrils, grass and bark, sometimes incorporating man-made materials such as twine, paper and cardboard. It is usually placed in a dense shrub, concealed by thick vegetation.
Telophorus zeylonus (Bokmakierie)

Bokmakierie at nest with hungry chicks. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Telophorus zeylonus (Bokmakierie)  

Bokmakierie chicks in nest, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking during August.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the male in the day and the female at night, for a period of about 14-19 days.
  • The young are brooded and fed by both adults, leaving the nest after about 15-21 days. The parents still tolerate their presence into the next breeding season, at which point they become independent.


Not threatened, in fact widespread across sub-Saharan Africa. s


  • 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