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Southern Boubou - BirdForum Opus

Adult male, subspecies ferrugineus
Photo © by Mybs
De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa. March 2004
Laniarius ferrugineus


Length 21-23 cm (8¼-9")
Male -Upperparts black with a white wing-stripe. Throat and breast creamy white; gradual transition to rufous belly. The bill and eyes are black, and the legs and feet are dark grey.
Female -Greyer above with rufous wash on breast.
Juvenile - Mottled buff-brown above and barred below.

Adult female, subspecies natalensis
Photo © by glazzers
Drakensberg Mtns., Lesotho. November 2011

Similar Species

Resembles the Southern Fiscal but has shorter tail and the white wing stripe extends to the secondaries. It also behaves quite differently. The Boubou is a skulker in low vegetation while the Fiscal tends to perch up in the open. Distinguished from Tropical Boubou and Swamp Boubou by its rufous flanks, undertail and belly.


Southern and eastern South Africa, Swaziland and southern Mozambique.



Laniarius ferrugineus has 6 subspecies[1]. These vary in size and plumage colouration.

  • L. f. ferrugineus from south-western South Africa (west of 23° 20' E) is described above;
  • L. f. natalensis from the interior of south-eastern South Africa south of 27° 30' S; the male has a whiter throat and breast than the nominate race and the female has darker upper parts;
  • L. f. pondoensis from coastal south-eastern South Africa (24° 20' E to 29° 20' S); the upper parts of the male are more glossy than those of the nominate race, and the under parts are slightly olive;
  • L. f. transvaalensis from north-eastern South Africa and Swaziland; breast buffy white and belly paler rufous than nominate;
  • L. f. tongensis Mozambique south of 20° 20' S and south to St Lucia in South Africa; most of under parts white; flanks and belly buffy; smaller than nominate;
  • L. f. savensis Mozambique north of 20° 20' S and south of Save River; similar to L. f. tongensis, but smaller with slate grey upper parts.


Forest, forest edge, thickets and well-wooded gardens.


Generally secretive and most easily found by following the call, but does become habituated to humans at picnic sites and in gardens. Responds to spishing.


Usually keeps to thick vegetation, where it forages mainly for invertebrates, eggs and nestlings, but also fruit and seeds.


The nest is a shallow cup of sticks, roots, grass and spider web, usually concealed in dense vegetation. Two to three eggs are laid August to February.


The Southern Boubou has a large repertoire of calls including loud ringing notes and harsh buzzing sounds. Often calls in duet, birds alternating several times.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Fry, H. (2018). Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/60528 on 26 June 2018).
  3. Claassens A & Marais E. 2008. Species information page - Southern Boubou. SASOL Bird e-Guide.
  4. Gibbon, G. 2002. Roberts' Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa: Version 3. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. www.sabirding.co.za
  5. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533
  6. Sinclair, I., Hockey, P.A.R., and Arlott, N. (2005). The Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town. ISBN 978-1775840992

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