Family Cuckooshrikes (Campephagidae)

Least Concern

Black-headed Cuckooshrike (Lalage melanoptera)


French: Échenilleur à tête noire German: Schwarzkopf-Raupenfänger Spanish: Oruguero cabecinegro

Ceblepyris melanoptera


, 1839,

New Holland?; error = Bhadwar, Kangra district, Punjab, India


See L. melaschistos. In past, sometimes considered conspecific with L. melaschistos or L. fimbriata. Nominate race highly restricted geographically and poorly known, and sykesi morphologically distinctive, with a stronger black, more restricted hood, white vs grey belly, greyer upper central rectrices and a generally smaller size, notably a shorter tail; detailed study needed to determine if sykesi merits species status. Type specimen not correctly described until 1951; species formerly referred to as Coracina sykesi. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. m. melanoptera (Rüppell, 1839) – Himalayan Cuckooshrike – NW India (Himachal Pradesh, N Uttar Pradesh).
  • L. m. sykesi Strickland, 1844 – Black-headed Cuckooshrike – S Nepal, India (E Rajasthan, Gujarat and NC Uttar Pradesh E to West Bengal, not confirmed farther E#R, S to Kerala and Tamil Nadu), Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; non-breeding E to S Bangladesh and W & SW Myanmar.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–20 cm; 24–36 g. Male nominate race has dark slate-grey head, neck and upper breast; mantle and rest of upperparts and underparts pale grey, becoming white on... read more


    Often silent. Song a series of clear, mellow, whistled notes, “twit-wit-wit-wee-twé... read more


    Open forest, secondary growth, scrub-jungle and bamboo; also in gardens, orchards, hedgerows, and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food mostly insects, especially caterpillars (Lepidoptera); also takes fruit such as Lantana berries and figs (Ficus).... read more


    Jun–Sept in N India and Nepal, Jun–Aug in C India and Apr–May in S; Mar–May in Sri Lanka. Nest a saucer of dry... read more


    Resident and partial migrant. Seasonal movements in Nepal, where seen mainly in spring and summer.... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Scarce in Nepal; locally fairly common in India; local in Bangladesh; uncommon and local in Sri Lanka. Occurs in several protected areas, e.g.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B. (2020). Black-headed Cuckooshrike (Lalage melanoptera). 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 29 February 2020).