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Monarch Flycatchers: Monarchidae

African Paradise-flycatcher (terpsiphone Viridis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: African paradise-flycatchers are the largest paradise-flycatchers in Africa. They have a tail that is twice as long as their body. The head and crest are bluish black, and they have a bright blue ring around the eye. The back and the outside of their tails are reddish brown, with a gray belly. There is either a black or a white stripe on each wing, depending on the subspecies. The tail has two long white feathers that can be as long as 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) in the male. Females have similar coloring but are duller than and not as glossy as males. Subspecies that live in savanna woodlands, characterized by thorny scrub, mopane trees, and grass, are usually all black or all white.

Geographic range: The African paradise-flycatcher is found only in sub-Saharan Africa.

Habitat: Very adaptable, African paradise-flycatchers can be found in almost every habitat in their region, except where it is very dry. They avoid dense forest but will nest along the forest edge, in clearings, and in savanna woodlands. Sometimes the birds are found in orchards, parks, and gardens as high up as 8,200 feet (2,500 meters). Some populations will move from one habitat to another during the dry season.

Diet: These birds eat insects, especially flying ants, termites, butterflies, moths, beetles, and caterpillars.

Behavior and reproduction: African paradise-flycatchers grab flying insects on the wing, and will perch and dive to capture food. Some subspecies search for insects among the leaves of trees, flitting, moving about rapidly, from branch to branch.

Rather solitary, they are found alone or in pairs. Males defend their territory at sunrise and sunset with loud songs and calls. Males also use their long tail and crest as courtship displays to attract a female. Sometimes, males will shiver their wings and do a dance on a branch. The female lays two to three white eggs in a cup-shaped nest that is anchored to the fork of a branch with spider webs. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs for fifteen days. The young birds are fed by the parents for eleven to fifteen days, but stay nearby for another week.

African paradise-flycatchers and people: Because of their striking beauty, African paradise-flycatchers are potential attractions for ecotourism.

Conservation status: African paradise-flycatchers are quite common throughout Africa and their numbers are healthy. However African paradise-flycatchers in East Africa are rapidly disappearing due to the population explosion of crows, which were imported into the country in 1891. Crow numbers have become so large that in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, alone there are nearly 500,000 crows. These birds attack native birds, livestock, and domestic pets. Crows attack African paradise-flycatchers outright and eat them. Working in pairs, one crow often distracts the bird away from its nest while another crow steals the eggs. African flycatchers are no longer found in the city. Though African paradise-flycatcher numbers elsewhere are numerous, they will become even more threatened as the crows move inland. ∎

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Animal Life ResourceBirdsMonarch Flycatchers: Monarchidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Monarch Flycatchers And People, African Paradise-flycatcher (terpsiphone Viridis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS