Family Woodhoopoes (Phoeniculidae)

Least Concern

Black-billed Woodhoopoe (Phoeniculus somaliensis)


French: Irrisor à bec noir German: Schwarzschnabel-Baumhopf Spanish: Abubilla arbórea piquinegra

Irrisor somaliensis


, 1901,

Fer Libah, Ogaden, Ethiopia


Generally considered to form a species-group with P. purpureus and P. damarensis (see P. purpureus). Race abyssinicus has been thought to be a hybrid of race neglectus and P. purpureus niloticus, but the two species are said to occur sympatrically without apparently interbreeding in parts of S Ethiopia and N Kenya. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. s. abyssinicus (Neumann, 1903) – NW Ethiopia and W Eritrea.
  • P. s. neglectus (Neumann, 1905) – C & SW Ethiopia.
  • P. s. somaliensis (Ogilvie-Grant, 1901) – SE Ethiopia, Somalia and N Kenya.
  • Descriptive notes

    33–38 cm. Blackish plumage with much iridescence, mainly violet and blue-violet. Nominate race with feathers of crown, face and nape green, fringed violet; throat... read more


    Considered to be very similar to vocalizations of P. purpureus, with song comprising a... read more


    Open dry thornbush and riparian woodland, woodland edge, and scattered trees along dry wadis. From... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods, including beetles and millipedes. Forages by moving up and down trunk and branches, sometimes head downwards, probing crevices... read more


    In N Somalia Feb–Sept, with six of the eight records in mid-May to mid-Jun, and in Ethiopia in Jan–Sept, with no obvious... read more


    Not known; probably sedentary, with large territory.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. No population estimates available, but apparently not rare; in Somalia, common in N & NW and less common in S; fairly common resident of open... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ligon, D. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Black-billed Woodhoopoe (Phoeniculus somaliensis). 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 23 September 2019).