Ethiopian bush-crow (Zavattariornis stresemanni)

Ethiopian bush-crow perched in tree
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Ethiopian bush-crow fact file

Ethiopian bush-crow description

GenusZavattariornis (1)

This starling-like crow was reported to science in 1938 and has been a taxonomic riddle ever since. It resembles a starling in body form, it nests like a starling, and it associates with starlings, and yet the curved bill, nostril hairs, and bare skin around the eye betray it as a member of the crow family (3). It has a pale grey head and body with black wings and tail. The bare skin around the eyes is blue and the bill is black. Males and females look the same, but juveniles are slightly duller in colour. In common with crows, the Ethiopian bush-crow calls with harsh rasps and chatters (2).

Also known as
Stresemann’s bushcrow.
Corbeau de Stresemann.
Length: 30 cm (2)
Wingspan: 13 – 15 cm (3)

Ethiopian bush-crow biology

Outside the breeding season, from June to February, the Ethiopian bush-crow is a gregarious species, grouping together with up to nine other crows to forage for insects, and sometimes also with white-crowned starlings (Spreo albicapillus). In February pairs move away from each other and build a nest on top of a six-metre-tall Acacia bush. The nest is an enclosed conical structure with a tubular entrance. It has a diameter of 60 cm on the outside and is woven from 30 cm thorn sticks. The interior is lined with dung and dry grass into which the female lays up to six smooth, glossy, cream-coloured eggs with lilac spots. It is not clear whether the pair breed again in May and June or whether the chicks are still being cared for, but pairs do not rejoin their flocks until late June (2).


Ethiopian bush-crow range

One of four bird species endemic to Ethiopia, the Ethiopian bush-crow is the only one limited to such a small range comprising the area around Yavello and Mega. It was thought to be common within this small region, but it may be declining very rapidly (2). The range is limited to the north by mountains, and to the south by the increasing openness of the plains, but the habitat to the east and west is identical, and it is not understood why it does not spread into the surrounding savanna (3).


Ethiopian bush-crow habitat

The Ethiopian bush-crow relies on tall and scattered Acacia bushes within semi-arid short grassland and savanna. It is found at an elevation of about 1,700 metres above sea level (2).


Ethiopian bush-crow status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Ethiopian bush-crow threats

The Ethiopian bush-crow appears to have very specific habitat requirements, particularly with regard to the density of Acacia bushes. The vegetation in the Yavello Wildlife Sanctuary has been shown to have become much denser between 1986 and 2002 as a result of the enforcement of fire suppression, and this is thought to be the cause of the decline in Ethiopian bush-crows. Partial clearance of scrub for cattle grazing space appears to have benefited the crow but intensive clearing of scrub for firewood and grazing is said to be having a negative impact elsewhere. The spread of cultivated land is also reducing suitable habitat (2).


Ethiopian bush-crow conservation

A detailed study of the Ethiopian bush-crow’s ecology and habitat requirements is currently underway and it is hoped that this might shed light on the effect of clearing Acacia. Yavello Sanctuary was created in order to protect this species and the white-tailed swallow (Hirundo megaensis) but there is no active management and the sanctuary has been deemed a failure. Responsibility for the area has now been transferred to the regional government and it is hoped that in collaboration with the local communities the sanctuary will become highly valuable and act as a stronghold for both of these important species (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.



Image credit

Ethiopian bush-crow perched in tree  
Ethiopian bush-crow perched in tree

© Nicola Destefano

Nicola Destefano
Baldissero Torinese (TO)


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