Family Bush-shrikes (Malaconotidae)

Least Concern

Tropical Boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus)


French: Gonolek d’Abyssinie German: Äthiopienwürger Spanish: Bubú abisinio

Turdus aethiopicus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Formerly considered to include L. sublacteus and L. nigerrimus (see both). See also L. ferrugineus. Treatment of all races except nominate as a separate species, “L. major”, has been proposed but with reservations about need for denser taxon-sampling#R; these reservations shared here. Probable hybrid between race mossambicus and L. bicolor recorded in N Botswana#R. Where present species and L. ferrugineus meet, in Limpopo Valley (in N South Africa and Mozambique), their races are very similar and may hybridize and intergrade; but along R Runde, in Zimbabwe, race limpopoensis of present species overlaps with smaller race savensis of L. ferrugineus without interbreeding. Population on plateau of WC Angola, having especially white underparts, may represent an undescribed taxon. Race major intergrades with mossambicus in N Zambia and extreme N Malawi. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. a. major (Hartlaub, 1848) – Tropical Boubou – E Guinea, NE Sierra Leone, NW Liberia, S Mali (Baoulé-Sud, Farako), C Ivory Coast, SW Burkina Faso#R, NE, C & S Ghana, Togo, Benin (S from Bétérou), C & S Nigeria, C & E Cameroon, S Chad and Central African Republic E to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya (E to Rift Valley), Tanzania (E in N to Loliondo and Essimingor, in S to Njombe and Mahenge), N, E & SE DRCongo and R Congo (from Lukolela S to Kinshasa), C & E Angola, NW & N Zambia and extreme N Malawi.
  • L. a. ambiguus Madarász, 1904 – highlands E of Rift Valley in Kenya (S from Mt Kulal and Mt Marsabit) and NE Tanzania (S to Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro and Arusha and Moshi).
  • L. a. mossambicus (G. A. Fischer & Reichenow, 1880) – Zambia, S Tanzania and Malawi, extreme NE Namibia (Caprivi Strip), N & E Botswana, Zimbabwe (except SE lowveld) and Mozambique.
  • L. a. limpopoensis Roberts, 1922 – SE Botswana, SE Zimbabwe (area bordered by Sabi, Runde and Limpopo Rivers) and extreme N South Africa (N Limpopo Province).
  • L. a. aethiopicus (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Ethiopian Boubou – E borders of Sudan and South Sudan, and Eritrea, Ethiopia, NW Somalia and N Kenya (Moyale area).
  • Descriptive notes

    19·5–25 cm; male 52–62 g and female 40–45 g (major), male 42–69 g and female 38–57 g (mossambicus), male 47·5... read more


    Male and female sing in antiphonal duet, usually of 2–3 notes, sometimes of 5–8,... read more


    Dense woody cover along riverbanks and watercourses, thickets and unkempt hedges in farmland and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including Orthoptera, mantises (Mantidae), termites (Isoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), caterpillars, other larvae and pupae; some... read more


    Season May in Guinea, Feb–Mar and Jun in Nigeria, Jun–Sept in Sudan, Apr–Jun and Aug–Sept in Ethiopia and Eritrea,... read more


    Mostly resident; some adults strictly sedentary, but apparently a constant turnover of birds at a... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to frequent over large part of sub-Saharan Africa; commoner in E & SE of range than in W & C. Sight record in Senegal (Casamance).... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. (2020). Tropical Boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus). 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 24 February 2020).