Gabela bush shrike (Laniarius amboimensis)

Also known as: Gabela bushshrike, Gabela bush-shrike
GenusLaniarius (1)
SizeLength: 20 cm (2)

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

This rare and handsome bird has white underparts, predominantly black wings, and an extremely striking rusty-red cap (2). Like other Laniarius species it has a slender bill, slightly hooked at the tip, and moderately-sized, rounded wings (3). The Gabela bush-shrike is most easily located by its deep, guttural call of ‘wor-worrrk’ or ‘worrrk’ which it repeats every three to four seconds (4).

There are currently 16 species recognised in the genus Laniarius, a group of African bush-shrikes (also known as the boubous and gonoleks) that are all rather uniform by size and shape, but often have different combinations of plumage (5). The Gabela bush-shrike can be distinguished from two similar species - Luehder's bush-shrike (Laniarius luehderi) and the orange-breasted Bush-shrike (Laniarius brauni) - by its clear white underparts (2).

This bush-shrike is known only from an area around the town of Gabela (from which it gets its name) in the province of Cuanza Sul, western Angola (2).

The Gabela bush-shrike has been recorded in primary forest, thickets in degraded secondary forest, old coffee plantations (4), and dense roadside thicket (2).

There is little information available on the biology of this poorly-known species. Pairs of Gabela bush-srikes have been recorded amongst flocks of other bird species and (4), like other African bush-shrikes, it probably feeds on a diet of large insects and, incredibly, even small rodents (6).

Most of the forest the Gabela bush-shrike inhabits was selectively logged before the 27-year-long Angolan civil war started in 1975 and, although there is no evidence of ongoing logging, the forest continues to be a source of firewood for local people and is cleared to make way for subsistence agriculture (2) (4) (7). In some parts of its habitat, 20 to 70 percent of canopy trees and all the undergrowth in valley bottoms is being cleared to plant bananas and sweet potatoes. In other areas, up to 95 percent of the forest canopy is being removed to plant cassava and maize (8). While the Gabela bush-shrike is said to be fairly tolerant of degraded habitats (4) (7), numbers of this species are still believed to have declined over recent years (2).

The protection of a 50 square kilometre area inhabited by the Gabela bush-shrike was recommended in the early 1970s (8), as it is home to several endangered birds (4), but this has not yet been established (8). The creation of a protected area to ensure the survival of the Gabela bush-shrike remains a priority, and a number of other conservation measures have also been recommended. These include conducting surveys to determine the Gabela bush-shrike’s distribution and population size, and studies to determine the species’ habitat requirements. To address the issue of land-use change for farming, ecotourism has been suggested as a viable addition to agriculture (2).

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
  2. BirdLife International (May, 2010)
  3. Layard, E.L. (1867) The Birds of South Africa: A Descriptive Catalogue. Longman, Green & Co., London.
  4. Ryan, P.G., Sinclair, I., Cohen, C., Mills, M.S.L., Spottiswoode, C.N. and Cassidy, R. (2004)
    The conservation status and vocalizations of threatened birds from the scarp forests of the Western Angola Endemic Bird Area. Bird Conservation International, 14: 247-260.
  5. Nguembock, B., Fjeldså J., Couloux A. and Pasquet, E. (2008) Phylogeny of Laniarius: molecular data reveal L. liberatus synonymous with L. erlangeri and “plumage coloration” as unreliable morphological characters for defining species and species groups. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 48(2): 396-407.
  6. Fuchs, J., Bowie, R.C.K., Fjeldså, J. and Pasquet, E. (2004) Phylogenetic relationships of the African bush-shrikes and helmet-shrikes (Passeriformes: Malaconotidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 33(2): 428-439.
  7. Mills, M.S.L. (2010)   Angola’s central scarp forests: patterns of bird diversity and conservation threats. Biodiversity and Conservation, 19(7): 1883-1903.
  8. Dean, W.R.J. (2001) Important Birds Areas in Africa and Associated Islands: Priority Sites for Conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 11. BirdLife International and Pisces Publications, Newbury.