Family Bush-shrikes (Malaconotidae)

Least Concern

Northern Puffback (Dryoscopus gambensis)


French: Cubla de Gambie German: Gambia-Schneeballwürger Spanish: Cubla del Gambia

Lanius gambensis

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,



Closest to D. pringlii, the two having parapatric ranges (some sympatry in S Ethiopia). In E range, size decreases clinally from N (Sudan) to S (Itombwe); race erwini rather poorly differentiated, sometimes subsumed into malzacii. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. g. gambensis (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – extreme S Mauritania and Senegambia E to W Cameroon and Gabon.
  • D. g. congicus Sharpe, 1901 – SW Congo, SW DRCongo and NW Angola (Cabinda).
  • D. g. malzacii (Heuglin, 1870) – E Cameroon, S Chad, Central African Republic, SW Sudan, W & S South Sudan, NE DRCongo, Uganda, W Kenya, Rwanda, N Burundi and NW Tanzania.
  • D. g. erythreae Neumann, 1899 – Eritrea, Ethiopia, SE Sudan (Sennar) and E South Sudan.
  • D. g. erwini Sassi, 1923 – Itombwe, in E DRCongo.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–19 cm; male 30–37 g, female 25–40 g, male on average 2–2·5 g heavier than female (malzacii and erwini combined). Male... read more


    No particular courtship or territorial song known, and pair-members do not sing in antiphonal duet... read more


    Dense mesic savanna woodland, also thickets, mangroves, wooded farmland, bamboo groves and well-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including beetles (Coleoptera), Lepidoptera (including caterpillars) and Orthoptera; a few plant buds. Keeps in tree canopy,... read more


    Poorly known. Season Aug in Mauritania and Jun–Sept and Dec in Gambia; in Liberia, males display in Sept–Oct and Mar–Apr... read more


    Resident; suggestion of migration through Gabon.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Frequent to common in N tropical woodlands, ranging N to upper Guidimaka valley in S Mauritania, great bend of R Niger in Mali (where scarce), W... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. (2020). Northern Puffback (Dryoscopus gambensis). 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 February 2020).