Family Bush-shrikes (Malaconotidae)

Least Concern

Black-backed Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla)


French: Cubla boule-de-neige German: Schwarzmantel-Schneeballwürger Spanish: Cubla dorsinegra

Lanius cubla


, 1801,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


On Zanzibar and adjacent mainland coast, all birds seem to be “pure” individuals of race affinis; from coastal S Somalia S to C Tanzanian coast (Dar es Salaam) many are pure affinis, but others, especially inland, have variable amounts of white in scapulars and wing and show extensive intergradation with nairobiensis and hamatus; all recorded vocalizations of affinis fit within range of variation of the other races. Race okavangensis intergrades with hamatus. Proposed race chapini (E Mpumalanga, in NE South Africa) here subsumed into hamatus. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. c. affinis (G. R. Gray, 1837) – Zanzibar Puffback – S Somalia and coastal lowlands of Kenya (extending inland to Bura and Shimba Hills) and Tanzania (S to R Rufiji), including Zanzibar I and Mafia I.
  • D. c. nairobiensis Rand, 1958 – E of Rift Valley in Kenya (S from Archer’s Post, E to Mt Endau, Kibwezi, and Tiva and Voi Rivers) and NE Tanzania (S to Kilosa, E to Usambara Mts).
  • D. c. hamatus Hartlaub, 1863 – N Angola, SE & E DRCongo, N & W Zambia, SW Kenya (W of Rift Valley, to Kavirondo Gulf), Tanzania (except NE), Malawi, Mozambique, E Zimbabwe, and lowland NE South Africa (Limpopo Province S to extreme N & NE Free State and N KwaZulu-Natal) and Swaziland.
  • D. c. okavangensis Roberts, 1932 – S Angola, Zambia (S from Balovale) and W Zimbabwe S to N Namibia, N & E Botswana and N South Africa (R Molopo, in N North West Province).
  • D. c. cubla (Latham, 1801) – Southern Puffback – SE South Africa (S KwaZulu-Natal S along coast to E Western Cape).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–18 cm; male 19–36 g and female 21–30·5 g (nominate), male on average 6 g less and female 4 g less (nairo­biensis), male on average 3... read more


    Male song a percussive click followed by loud, clear whistle, "dzlit-toweeeyoo" or "tzr-t'weeeyo",... read more


    Canopy of dense savanna woods and forest edges, less commonly in sparse woodland; occasionally in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Eats beetles (Coleoptera), large numbers of caterpillars, ants (Formicidae), termites (Isoptera), also Salvadora fruits and ... read more


    Fledglings in Oct in Somalia; in Kenya, season Jan–May, Jul, Sept–Oct and Dec (mainly Apr) inland, Sept and Dec near coast; Jan... read more


    Resident; ringing recoveries all within 10 km of ringing site.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common. In Somalia, fairly common in lower Jubba and lower Shabeelle valleys and in extreme S; frequent to common in Kenya, where... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. (2020). Black-backed Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla). 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 on 19 February 2020).