Prionopidae – Helmetshrikes

Retz's Helmetshrike Prionops retzii ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Prionopidae are a family uniting some smallish to mid-sized passerine species. The helmetshrikes, were included with the true shrikes in the family Laniidae, later on split between several presumably closely related groups such as bushshrikes (Malaconotidae) and cuckooshrikes (Campephagidae), but are now considered sufficiently distinctive to be separated from that group as the single genera family Prionopidae.

This is an African group of species which are found in scrub or open woodland. They are similar in feeding habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush or tree. Although similar in build to the shrikes, these tend to be colourful species with the distinctive crests or other head ornaments, such as wattles, from which they get their name. They are noisy and sociable birds, some of which breed in loose colonies. They lay 2-4 eggs in neat, well-hidden nests.

There are just 8 species of Helmetshrike in the family Prionopidae; they are:

White-crested Helmetshrike Prionops plumatus
Grey-crested Helmetshrike Prionops poliolophus
Yellow-crested Helmetshrike Prionops alberti
Red-billed Helmetshrike Prionops caniceps
Rufous-bellied Helmetshrike Prionops rufiventris
Retz’s Helmetshrike Prionops retzii
Gabela Helmetshrike Prionops gabela
Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike Prionops scopifrons

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 8

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