Gabela helmet-shrike (Prionops gabela)

Gabela helmet-shrike
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Gabela helmet-shrike fact file

Gabela helmet-shrike description

GenusPrionops (1)

A poorly known species, the Gabela helmet-shrike possesses a slate-grey body, which contrasts sharply with the white-tipped tail, and bright red eyes and bill (2). Helmet-shrikes are among the most predatory of all passerines, and possess strong legs and sharp claws for holding prey, and a hooked bill with a tooth-like point on the upper part (3).

Bagadais de Gabela.
Length: 19 cm (2)

Gabela helmet-shrike biology

Almost nothing is known about the biology of the uncommon Gabela helmet-shrike. A female was found in a breeding condition in September (4), and like other shrikes, it is likely to feed primarily on insects (3).


Gabela helmet-shrike range

Previously known only from a small area near Gabela, on the escapement of western Angola, there had been no recorded sightings of the Gabela helmet-shrike since the mid-1970s. However, in 2003 a group of eight birds was spotted at the foot of the escarpment, in an area of open woodland between Kumbira and Seles. This was followed in 2005 by sightings of ten groups in the Kissama, Bimbe and Bango areas, less than half a kilometre from the foot of the escarpment (2).


Gabela helmet-shrike habitat

The Gabela helmet-shrike inhabits the canopy of secondary forest, forest underplanted with coffee, and has also been collected from dry thicket and cultivated areas (3). The most recent sightings of this species have been within areas of dry forest at elevations of 300 metres (2).


Gabela helmet-shrike status

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

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Gabela helmet-shrike threats

Due to the restricted range of the Gabela helmet-shrike, the destruction of its habitat poses the greatest threat to this species (4). Charcoal production is claiming large tracts of dry forest near the escarpment, while other areas are being cleared to plant subsistence agricultural crops such as bananas, sweet potato, maize and cassava. In addition, now that conflict has ended on the escarpment, large-scale coffee planting and farming is now likely to resume, claiming more of this imperilled bird’s habitat (2).


Gabela helmet-shrike conservation

The Gabela helmet-shrike is found in the Kissama National Park, which affords a degree of protection against habitat destruction (2). Unfortunately, however, a proposal to create another protected area, the Gabela Nature Reserve, which would have helped to protect this species against the resumption of commercial activities on the escarpment, has not materialised (2) (5). In order to ensure this species’ survival, surveys of its population and habitat should be conducted along with research into its ecology. In addition, a conservation strategy for the Angolan escarpment and surrounding areas should be implemented, including the promotion of ecotourism and a supplement to agriculture (2).

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

Find out more

For further information on the Gabela helmet-shrike see:



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A group of more than 5000 species of small to medium-sized birds which have widely varied plumage and shape. They all have three toes pointing forward and one directed backward which assists with perching, and are sometimes known as perching birds or song birds.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2009)
  3. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  4. Dean, W. (2000) Birds of Angola. British Ornithologists Union, Tring.
  5. WWF Ecoregion Profile: Angolan Scarp savanna and woodlands (April, 2009)

Image credit

Gabela helmet-shrike  
Gabela helmet-shrike

© Nik Borrow

Nik Borrow


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