Grey hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus)

Also known as: Hypocolius
French: Hypocolius gris
GenusHypocolius (1)
SizeLength: 23 cm (2)
Wingspan: 10 cm (3)
Weight48 - 57 g (2)

The grey hypocolius is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The most conspicuous feature of the male grey hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) is the black face mask that extends to the back of the neck. The rest of the plumage is a delicate bluish-grey, with black fringing on the primary feathers and at the tip of the long, sleek tail. The female grey hypocolius has a somewhat duller appearance, as it lacks the distinctive face mask. The plumage of the female is more brownish-grey with white tips on the primary feathers and an indistinct black band on the tail tip (2). The grey hypocolius has short, strong legs and a slightly hooked bill (4).

Juvenile grey hypocolius have a sandy colouration with washed out black tips on the tail feathers (2).

The grey hypocolius may call with a ‘tre-tur-tur’, where the last two notes are lower in pitch, or with a descending ‘wee-oo’. During courtship a continuous ‘kirrr’ call can be heard (2).

The grey hypocolius occurs throughout the Middle East (5). It is known to breed in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, and also occurs in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen (5).

The grey hypocolius resides in lowland woodland areas, where it relies on specific trees for nesting. Outside of the breeding season it may also be found in desert scrub, irrigated plantations and fruit groves, provided there is a good supply of drinking water and an abundance of fruiting trees on which to feed (2).

The diet of the grey hypocolius consists primarily of fruits, particularly berries and dates, although during the non-breeding season it will also eat other fruits and young shoot leaves. On occasion the grey hypocolius will also consume invertebrates, which are plucked from foliage or snatched from the air in flight. It feeds in small social groups within dense foliage, either on the ground or from a perch (2).

The nest of the grey hypocolius is a cup-shaped structure made from small twigs and lined with grass, down and sometimes hair or wool. The nest is usually situated one to four metres off the ground in a thorny tree. Three to five eggs are typically laid between May and July, and are incubated for 14 days. Both the male and female incubate the eggs as well as feed the chicks (2).

The grey hypocolius leaves its breeding range in September, migrating a short distance south overnight, no further than 1,000 kilometres, where it remains until April. However, some adults have been recorded remaining in West Iran year-round (3).

There has been some destruction to the woodlands in which the grey hypocolius breeds and to its winter roosting sites (2), although this is not currently considered to be a significant threat to this bird (5).

Although there are no specific conservation measures in place for the grey hypocolius, it will benefit from the planting of fruiting trees and increased irrigation in areas in which it resides (2).

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo  J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Cramp, S. (1988) Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume V. Tyrant Flycatchers to Thrushes.Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Campbell, B. and Lack, E. (1985) A Dictionary of Birds. T&AD Poyser Ltd, London.
  5. BirdLife International (November, 2010)