ABYSSINIAN CATBIRD (Parophasma galinieri)

ABYSSINIAN CATBIRD-Wing 83 – 91 mm

The Abyssinian Catbird is one of the finest singer of all the birds of Africa. It is frequent and common in the western and southern highlands between 1800 and 3500 meters (600 – 11,500 feet) in giant heath, Saint John’s wort, highland bamboo, juniper, Podocarpus and olive forests. It lives singly in pairs or in parties up to eight often in thickets and vines that fringe these forests. It is found as far north as the Semien Mountains.

The catbird is a resident garden bird of plateau cities; for example, it is a regular inhabitant in Addis Ababa in gardens with large trees. For instance it is found around embassies, hotels and many private compounds. One usually first notices the catbird when it sings. The birds, which appear to be territorial, are intense singers in the rains, when a male and a female often duet persistently. The male, stretching his neck skyward and holding his wings out at the bend, vigorously produces a long clear ringing song. The female answers with a char or purring note. Because the little known catbird lives in dense parts of thickets, it is sometimes difficult to see.

Features of Abyssinian Catbird

Distinguishing features are its general grayish color, dirty white forehead and chestnut belly and under tail coverts. This endemic is known to feed on juniper berries, but other items in its diet are not known. It certainly nests in May and July. It probably nests from February through July. The nest is a small, frail, thin, cup like structure of plant stems placed loosely in a tangle of vines. One was discovered five meters up in a Saint John’s wort tree.

The eggs, two in number, are pale flesh colored and uniformly covered with fine flesh marks and a few dark chestnut spots. The classification of the catbird is not well understood. It may be a flycatcher or a babbler. Recent evidence, based on plumage characters, indicates that the Abyssinian Catbird is a babbler whose nearest relative may be the Bush Blackcap, also called Blackcap Babbler (Lioptilus Nigricapillus). It is found in the thickets and forests of eastern South Africa.

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