Crimson Breasted Shrike

Crimson Breasted Shrike

Rooibors Laksman

The last time I saw this little beauty was in Mookgapong on a visit to a friend’s game farm. How surprising to find one beneath my fig trees.

The Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus) or the Crimson-breasted Gonolek, (‘gonolek’ – supposedly imitative of its call), is a southern African bird occurring in a broad swathe from southern Angola to the Free State province in South Africa. This species was first collected by William John Burchell in 1811 near the confluence of the Vaal and Orange Rivers.

He named it atrococcineus meaning ‘black/red’, finding the striking colour combination quite remarkable. The generic name Laniarius was coined by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot and was meant to call attention to the butcher-like habits of the group. In South West Africa its colours reminded Germans of their homeland flag and it therefore became the Reichsvogel (“Empire bird”). This species is closely related to two other bushshrikes, the Yellow-crowned Gonolek (Laniarius barbarus) and the Black-headed Gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster) of East Africa.rooibors laksman

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