This small bird was first described to science as recently as 1997 (1). It is named for the brick-red feathers on the ‘shoulders’, which contrast with the grey back and dark grey wings. The underparts have whitish plumage, with a wash of chestnut over the breast and flanks (2). A black patch sits like a bib at the top of the breast and extends up over the sides of the neck, contrasting with the white face. Female red-shouldered vangas differ slightly from this description, having olive-grey-brown upperparts, a whitish throat, and buff to whitish underparts. The eyes are pale lemon yellow, the bill is black and the legs and feet are pinkish-grey (2). Vangas generally have an elaborate and melodic vocal repertoire (3); this species song is a loud ‘tyu-tee’ (4).
Often found in small groups, the red-shouldered vanga searches for food in low, dense bushes, two to three metres off the ground, where it plucks its small insect prey from leaves and branches (2)(4). Vangas generally build deep, bowl-shaped nests (3).
While in some areas the habitat of the red-shouldered vanga is being degraded by goat grazing, shrub clearance for charcoal, and timber extraction, the majority of the habitat remains intact as the soil is unsuitable for agriculture. However, as the red-shouldered vanga is known only from a small area, its status could deteriorate rapidly should this situation change (4).
The red-shouldered vanga occurs within one protected area: the Tsimanampetsotsa Strict Reserve. Another region within its range has been identified as a site of special biodiversity interest and warrants formal protection (4). This protection, along with further research into the species, has been recommended by BirdLife International to ensure this species’ conservation status does not worsen (4).
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