Shrikes and Waxwings

Shrikes and Waxwings

Shrikes and Waxwings

In many parts of the world shrikes are
familiar birds of villages and large towns, being noisy and usually conspicuous because of their bright colors.

The majority of the family (77 percent of species) is endemic to Africa south of the Sahara, and many of these species are pprobablyclosely related. Some of the true shrikes occur throughout the northern temperate and Arctic region and some of these are closely related to the African Lanus species. The Northern or Great gray shrike is founding North Africa and throughout Europe and the USSR and also occurs in North America south to Mexico.

In southern and eastern China the Northern shrike is replaced by the Long-tailed gray shrike. The Rufous-backedshrike also has an extensive range from India through Asia and onto New Guinea. In contrast, the Strong-billed shrike is endemic to the Philippines and the Borneanbristle-head to Borneo. Most African genera have species that either inhabit dense tropical forests, lowland or montage, or else open deciduous woodland.

Thus the puff-back and Sabine’s puff-back occur throughout West and Central Africa, the former in savanna and the latter in forest. Some genera are. However, confined to savanna areas (egg the true shrikes, Western long-tailed shrike and the Brubru shrike).Outside Africa shrikes occur in open wood-land, orchards and often in pine and oak forests. The African genus Malaconotus is remarkable in that pairs of species, one large and one small. That live in the same habitat are color replicas of each other.

Thus the Orange-breasted bush-shrike is a small edition of the Gray-headed bush-shrike, both occurring in the savanna of West Africa. Forest species also show these replica-tin and other examples occur elsewhere in Africa. The function of such duplication is uncertain, particularly as the species involved are ecologically separate.

All shrikes have a sharply hooked and notched bill, features that are more prominent in some genera than in others. The powerful beak is used for killing the prey. In the majority of species the legs and feet are strong and the claws sharp for holding prey. The tail is long in many species and often graduated or rounded. Many African shrikes are incredibly beautiful. The gonolekis crimson below and black above apart from dull yellow crown and under-tail coverts, and other related species are similarly colored. In contrast, the Tropical booboo is black and white and the Sooty booboo is black. The sexes are alike in the first two species but in the case of the Sooty boubou the female is dark olivaceous brown below.

All Laniarius species are skulkers in dens habitat and use a variety of contact calls. thesexes duetting, often alternately. The Gray-headed hush-shrike has a green hack anyellow underparts and the Gorgeous bush-shrike is similarly colored but has, in addi-tion, a bright red throat bordered by black(less prominent in the female than themale). Other African shrikes are not sobrightly colored. Some bush-shrikes haverufous wings, brown backs, pale underparts.patterned heads and black and white tailsand in the majority of these the sexes arealike. The Red-backed shrike is well knownin Europe but is only one of several Laniusspecies which have rufous or chestnutbacks.

The male has a gray head and rump.a black eye stripe and a black and white tail:in the female the gray and black areas arereplaced by mouse brown. Many Lanius spe-cies are a mixture of black, gray and white.some have long tails, and the sexes are alikein many. Any differences are confined toflank colors and the presence of some slightbarring on the female breast in some species.

Two African shrikes, although markedly dif-ferent in color, are considered closelyrelated, partly because of the social behaviorand partly through their distribution. One.the Western long-tailed shrike, is essentiallybrown above, buff below and is profuselystreaked black above and below. Its bill isyellow and on each wing there is a chestnutpatch. The other occurs in southern Africa and is mainly black with white on the wingsand flanks.

After breeding in northern latitudes, allpopulations of the Woodchat shrike and Les-ser gray shrike migrate to Africa. Somepopulations of the Red-backed shrike do alsobut other populations migrate to SoutheastAsia. North—south movements occur inother shrikes that breed at high latitudes butthe more southern populations are seden-tary. Local movements are suspected forsome savanna shrikes in Africa but this hasnot been proved through ringing.

While onmigration the Lanius species are territorial and some (Red-backed shrike) defend ter-ritories in their winter quarters. In Africathe migrant species are solitary and malesreturn to breeding grounds before thefemales ; in Woodchat shrikes, however, thesexes may arrive already paired.

The Boubou shrikes and smaller bush-shrikes are predominantly insect-eaters andfeed near and on the ground. The larger spe-cies (Malaconotus) and puff-backs feed intrees, the former methodically searching thefoliage for food, the latter feeding activelylike warblers. Small vertebrates and birdeggs make up the diet of the larger species The true shrikes characteristically searchthe ground from a vantage point andpounce on their prey.

They may, however,catch insects on the wing and search theground for food from the air. Many of themstore food by impaling their prey on thorns,barbs of wire or else hanging it from the forkof a branch, but not all African Lanius spe-cies do this. When in Africa the Red-backedshrike does not use such a “larder.” Theprincipal food of the Northern shrike isvertebrates, and when dealing with largeprey which it could not tear up when frozenit tears the prey into smaller pieces beforeimpaling them, and these may be eatenfrozen.

The majority of shrikes breed in pairs ;some resident species remain paired for ayear or more and maintain their territoriesoutside the breeding season (observed inBoubou shrikes, puff-backs, bush-shrikes).For the majority of species in Africa thebreeding season overlaps the end of the dryseason and the beginning of the rainyseason but in some (Fiscal shrike. Westernlong-tailed shrike) it is prolonged and ceasesduring the molting period which is syn-chronized in a given population. Two orthree successful broods are normal for theseshrikes. Breeding in northern latitudes isconfined to the short summer period (May–July) and one brood is the norm ; replace-ment clutches are quickly laid.

The courtship display of the majority ofspecies has not been described. Male puff-backs puff out their rump feathers and looklike puff-balls in their display. Bush-shrikesof the genus Tchagra use a display flightaccompanied with wing flapping and a duet.The male Woodchat shrike nods his headrapidly up and down while singing to thefemale and both partners join in a duet, anda similar display is used by the male Red-backed shrike. Courtship feeding of femaleby the male has been observed in severalspecies of Lanius and Corvinella and thefemale’s calls (resembling young) quicklyreveal the nest location.

Both sexes help build the nest and feed thenestlings. The female alone incubates inLanius and Corvinella species but in othergenera the limited data available suggestthat both sexes incubate. The nests of manyof the endemic African shrikes areinconspicuous—neatly formed cups madefrom tendrils, fiber, grass and spider webs,either secured to a horizontal branch or pla-ced in a fork of a tree. The larger species andthe Lanius species have more bulky nests oftwigs, lined with fibers, tendrils and grassor else (at higher latitudes) with wool, hair
and feathers ; these may be placed in treesor thickets.

A good deal of attention has been givenin recent years to the study of cooperativebreeding, and this occurs in some Africanshrikes. In southern Ghana, the Westernlong-tailed shrike lives in groups (average12 birds) throughout the year and variousindividuals defend the territory, feed thebreeding female, nestlings and fledglings.Breeding in pairs did not occur during a five-year period of study, and two females intheir sixth year were still helping in a group Many ideas have been put forward about theusefulness of such behavior and its evolu-tion, and its study will continue to be profit-able and worthwhile ; the African shrikesare ideal subjects for investigating thisbehavior.

Although the majority of cuckoo-shrikeshave shrike-like bills, and colors andplumage patterns resembling cuckoos, theyare not related to either shrikes or cuckoos.They are a family of two distinct groups : thecuckoo-shrikes (8 genera, 62 species) whichare drably colored in general and range insize from that of a sparrow to that of a dove,and the brightly colored minivets (1 0 spe-cies) which are much more active and greg-arious. and wagtail-like in size and shape.

Two genera occur in Africa, one(Campephaga, 6 species) is endemic and theother (Coracina with a total of 40 species butonly 4 in Africa) occurs from East Pakistanthrough Southeast Asia to New Guinea andAustralia. The Ground cuckoo-shrike isendemic to Australia, another (Black-breasted triller) is endemic to Borneo and athird (Orange cuckoo-shrike) to NewGuinea. The remainder are distributedthroughout the Indian subcontinent,Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia andnorthwards to eastern China and Russia.

Cuckoo-shrikes have long pointed wings.moderately long tails (either graduated orrounded), and well-developed rictal bristleswhich in many species cover the nostrils.Niany species (Campephaga, Coracina,minivets) have spine-like shafts to thefeathers of the rump and lower back. Theseare not normally visible but are raised indefense display.

The newly hatched youngof some (eg Campephaga, Hernipus,Tephrodornis) are covered with white or graydown which blends in perfectly with thenest and environment. The fledglings aresimilar to females and differences betweensexes are minimal except for Campephagaspecies. In this genus the males arepredominantly black with little differencebetween them and some species havepatches of bare yellowish skin at the sidesof the gape which is unique in the family.The females are so different from the malesthat they might easily pass for anotherspecies.

In direct contrast the minivets are daintyand strikingly colored with slender narrowwings with a prominent wing bar, and along strongly graduated tail. There is amarked difference between the sexes. TheScarlet minivet has the whole of the head,throat, back, most of the wings. and central tail feathers black, the rest of the plumagebeing red. The female is just as striking withyellow replacing the red and also the blackon the chin, throat and forehead. In contrastthe male Ashy minivet has a gray back andrump, black and white tail, a prominentblack nape and crown, and white on theforehead and underparts. The female andjuveniles are similarly colored and patternedbut not so prominently.

All the family, particularly the minivets,are gregarious and are usually first locatedin parties of up to go or more birds as theymove through the tops of trees in search offood. They invariably make up part of anymixed feeding flocks, which are a character-istic of the forests and open woodlands ofIndia and the whole of Southeast Asia.Minivets move through the canopy in noisyparties as they follow each other searchingfor insects. Flycatcher-shrikes do the samebut also catch insects on the wing, and theirbills are proportionally shorter and wider atthe gape than those of other members of thefamily.

The wood-shrikes are a little morecumbersome and slow moving when feed-ing but will catch insects in flight and feedon the ground when necessary. The largerCoracina species also form loose feedingparties and eat fruit in addition to insects.Most trillers do this as well but the Black-breasted triller, a montane forest species, isthought to eat only fruit. Some triflers inAustralia and the Ground cuckoo-shrikefeed mainly on the ground. The latter hasstrong legs well adapted for walking andrunning. In flight it is much like a cuckoowith black wings and tail contrasting witha gray mantle and head and the finely bar-red white underparts. The White-winged triller is a unique member of the family asthe male molts from a black and whitebreeding dress into a nonbreeding dressresembling the female’s which is brownabove and white (lightly streaked brown)below.

The courtship and breeding behavior ofthe family have been little studied. The maleScarlet minivet pursues the female into theair from a perch and seizes her tail in hisbill. They then spiral down together to theperch and just before landing he releases hertail. Such flights above the tree tops seemto be a feature of all minivets, but some ofthese may well be territorial in function asa similar spiraling descent has beenrecorded for a male White-winged trillerwhen defending his territory.

In the court-ship display of some larger cuckoo-shrikesthe male lifts each wing alternately and repeatedly for some seconds, while callingvigorously ; this is then repeated at intervals.However, females also flick their wings(Black cuckoo-shrike) and wing flickingseems characteristic of the group as it isoften observed after a bird perches. The maleBlack cuckoo-shrike performs a moth-likefluttering flight with tail fanned anddepressed during his courtship display.

Insome species (White-winged triller, Largecuckoo-shrike, flycatcher shrikes) bothsexes take part in nest building, incubationand feeding nestlings. In others (eg Scarletminivet, Flame-colored minivet) males feedthe nestlings and contribute a little to nestbuilding, whereas in others (Black cuckoo-shrike) the male only helps feed the nest-lings, although he may accompany thefemale while she builds.

Some species are single brooded butothers (Small minivet) have two broods inrapid succession, and some (Large cuckoo-shrike in India) have two breeding seasonsa year (February–April and August–October). Nest helpers have been recordedat nests of the Small minivet and the Groundcuckoo-shrike. The White-winged trillerdefends large territories in coastal areas ofAustralia but in the interior may breed inclose proximity to each other.

The Ashy minivet is the only long-distantmigrant of the family and leaves its breedingareas in China and USSR to winter inSoutheast Asia. Prior to migrating, flocks ofup to 150 birds form on the breedinggrounds. The rest of the family are mainlysedentary or nomadic but Australian speciesmove north–south over large distances andsome Indian species undergo altitudinalmigration.

The three genera in the leafbirds family dif-fer considerably and may not form a naturalassemblage. Fairy bluebirds, in particular,need further taxonomic study. Their com-bination of brilliant blue and black is, never-theless, repeated in the throat pattern ofmost male leafbirds (Chloropsis species).

These two genera also have similar short,thick tarsi with small toes and both shedbody feathers profusely when handled—asdo bulbuls. It may have escape value in thatit may confuse the predator. The intense redeye of adult fairy bluebirds is not shared withothers of the family. Leafbirds are otherwise’smaller and, as their name implies. greenwith or without blue on the wing-covertsand tail, and blue, yellow and/or orange onthe head and underparts.

Ioras are smaller again, with proportion-ately long bills and slender legs. They too are basically green or green and yellow withslight to marked plumage differencesbetween the sexes, Great and Common iorasvarying in the extent to which malesdevelop a black dorsal breeding plumage.Fairy bluebirds and leafbirds differ signifi-cantly in plumage between the sexes, exceptin the Philippines. There only one speciesper genus occurs per island. In isolationfemales of the endemic Philippine fairy blue-bird have evolved plumage similar to thatof the males and the males of the endemicspecies of leafbirds have lost their dark headpattern.

Ioras cover the full range of familyhabitats, from dry acacia scrub (Marshall’siora) through forest edge and cultivation(Common iora) to closed canopy forests(Great and Green). Golden-fronted leafbirdsinhabit deciduous monsoon forest; all otherspecies, and the two fairy bluebirds, live inevergreen forest and therefore are of restric-ted (and shrinking) distribution west ofBurma. The Asian fairy bluebird is nowextinct in Sri Lanka. Three leafbirds aremountain dwellers: Orange-bellied on theAsian continent, a possible form of the Blue-winged in Borneo and the Blue-masked(with an isolated subspecies of the Golden-fronted in secondary vegetation) inSumatra.

All species are confined to trees and inforest feed at canopy level. Toms searchfoliage for insects, and the Green iora is aregular core member of foraging flocks ofmixed species. Fairy bluebirds are fruit-eaters, roaming the forest between scatteredsources of food which they may visit in some
numbers, advertising themselves with loud,liquid whistles. Leafbirds take both insectsand fruit (papped in the bill and the contentssucked out). They also take nectar and mayhelp to pollinate some forest trees. Fairybluebird songs are inadequately recordedbut leafbirds, especially Orange-bellied andGolden-fronted, are fine singers (the latter isalso a notorious mimic). Common ioras areconspicuous by their loud, varied calls andthe males of at least Common and Greatioras also perform a parachute display flight.
Ioras build compact cup nests felted tobranches with cobweb. The few leafbirdnests that have been described also incorp-orate cobweb but are suspended by the rimfrom twin twigs. Asian fairy bluebirds forma cup of rootlets and moss and liverworts ona platform of twigs in a sapling or smallforest tree; only the female builds andincubates but both sexes feed the young.Common ioras may separate their two fled-glings, the parents tending one each.
Many species of tropical birds are gregariousin both breeding and nonbreeding seasons.Such sociability is one of the most importantfield characteristics of helmet shrikes. Theyalways are found in parties of up to 12 ormore birds, often with other species.

Although the savanna helmet shrikeshave a wide distribution, the ranges of thedifferent species usually do not overlap andwhen they do overlap are ecologically separ-ate. Thus the Long-crested helmet shrikehas several subspecies in its wide range oflatitude (15°N-25°S) but is replaced in Kenya by the Gray-crested helmet shrike.and in the highlands of the eastern Congoby the Yellow-crested helmet shrike.

Inareas where it occurs together with bothRetz’s red-billed shrike and the Chestnut-fronted helmet shrike, the Long-crestedhelmet shrike searches low down on or nearthe ground while Retz’s searches for insectshigh up in the canopy ; the Chestnut-frontedhelmet shrike being smaller than the othertwo is thought to feed on different prey fromthe others. The insect diet of helmet shrikesis varied (beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers.mantises) and small geckos are occasionally taken by the Long-crested helmet shrike.The Eurocephalus species feed mainly onground-living prey, pouncing on them froma vantage point.

The bill of helmet shrikes is strong,sharply hooked at the tip, and either blackor red. The tail is long and rounded and thefeet are strong. As a family they are distinc-tive in having scales (scutellations) on boththe side and front of the tarsus. The Long-crested helmet shrike has a black back,white underparts, gray head and whitecrest.

Most red-billed species are mainlydark slate gray-brown with black head and breast, the exception being the Chestnut-fronted helmet shrike which has a blackback, throat and tail, a white head andchestnut and white underparts. The Yellow-crested helmet shrike is wholly black otherthan its crest, although this is dull grayishwhite in young birds. The two white-headedspecies are distinguished by their brown andwhite plumage, one (White-crowned shrike)having a brown rump, the other ( Rueppell’swhite-crowned shrike) a white one.

Additional birds, other than the breedingpair, have been recorded as helping in nestconstruction and/or in feeding nestlings of the Long-crested helmet shrike, the Gray-crested helmet shrike and the Chestnut-fronted shrike. This cooperative breedingmay occur in others but not, apparently, inRetz’s red-billed shrike. However, severalpairs of this and the other three helmetshrikes may build nests close together, form-ing a loose colony. Breeding occurs mainlyin the dry season, but extends into the wetseason, at least for some species. In centralEast Africa several of the helmet shrikesoccur in the same area.

The vanga shrikes or vangas are a goodexample of what happens when a uniquestock of birds (possibly belonging to thehelmet shrikes) becomes established on alarge isolated island containing only a fewother groups of birds. On Madagascar theyhave filled the ecological niches that, inother parts of the world, are occupied bywoodpeckers, shrikes, tits and nuthatches.As a result they differ markedly in size andcolor, and even more in the shape of the bill :to describe one would draw a picture atypi-cal of the group.

But similarity of the skull’sshape and of the structure of the bony palateare the basis for placing them in one family.They are found in wet forests (Rufousvanga, Helmet vanga, Madagascar nut-hatch), dry forests and open savanna(Sicklebill falculea) and in semidesert (Lafresnaye’s vanga). The size and shape oftheir bills reflect the size of insect prey taken,their location and the mode of capture. Thelarger species have shrike-like bills with acharacteristic hook at the tip, the bill of theHelmet vanga having a relatively largecasque (enlargement) which is bright blue.These search the foliage for large insects andalso capture small vertebrates, chameleonsand amphibians in the manner of smallbirds of prey.

The three species ofXenopirostris have horizontally compressedbills and sit immobile on a twig and catchpassing insects like a flycatcher. The bills ofthe Red-tailed vanga and Madagascarnuthatch are much finer, the former hunt-ing small insects along branches like tits, thelatter searching trunks and major branchesin the same way as true nuthatches butalways moving upwards while searching.The Sicklebill falculea’s long curved bill iswell adapted for locating prey in crevices inthe bark of trees, and this species takes theplace of woodpeckers.

In those species studied both sexes helpin nest construction, incubation and feedingyoung ; an extra member of the same specieshas been seen at a nest of a Chabert vangathat was being built. The nests of themajority are neat cups made from smallleaves, roots, fibers and bark all bound to thesupport with spider web but. in marked contrast, that of the Sicklebill falculea is madefrom twigs and is like that of a crow.

Most of the vanga shrikes are gregariousin the nonbreeding season, feeding andmoving in loose flocks of 4-12 individuals(Chabert vanga, Rufous vanga), but as highas 25 or more in the Sicklebill falculea ;others join flocks of mixed species whichmay include other vangas (eg Blue vanga,Red-tailed vanga). In contrast the Hook-billed vanga and Lafresnaye’s vanga areusually solitary.
Of all the endemic groups on Madagascarthe Vanga shrikes are the most successful,both in number of species and abundance,but their survival is threatened by thedestruction of their forest and woodedhabitats.

The eight species of waxwings all depend toa large extent on fruit and are gregariousat some times of year. Although the biologyof the true waxwings is quite well knownthat of their tropical relatives is poorlyunderstood.

The three species of true waxwings are widely distributed across the coniferousforests of northern Asia, Europe andAmerica. All are similar in ecology andappearance. The name waxwing refers tosealing-wax-like red drops at the tips of theadults’ secondary feathers (and more rarelyon the tail). The function of these drops isnot known. In many other ways too, waxw-ings are mysterious birds ; unpredictable inthe timing, numbers and location of theiroccurrence. They were once thought to bebad omens, which earned them the name”pest-bird” in some parts of Europe.

Waxwings have soft silky plumage, drabcolors, short stout bills and legs, long clawsand prominent crests. They have relativelylong wings which allow them to fly fast.Speeds of up to 46kh (29mph) have beenmeasured for Cedar waxwings. Their flightis characteristically strong and undulating.
All species rely on berries for much oftheir food, although in spring and summerpetals and insects are eaten. Insects arecaught on the wing, by fly-catching fromhigh exposed branches, and include suchagile prey as dragonflies.

Captured insectsare brought to a perch to be eaten. TheBohemian waxwing turns to fruits as soonas they appear and will take raspberries,hawthorn, rowan, cedar, juniper, mistletoeand many domestic fruits. These birds willgorge themselves on berries in one placeuntil they seem hardly able to fly, strippingthe hushes clean before moving on. Anoccasional consequence of eating ferment-ing berries is that waxwings can sometimeshe found showing signs of intoxication !Their reliance on fruit and their nomadichabits in winter may make them importantdispersers of seeds. However, since seeds canpass through the digestive tract in as littleas 16 minutes most seeds will presumablyhe voided near to where they were eaten.

Waxwings feed mainly in trees, thoughthey will sometimes pluck at groups of berries while hovering at the edge of a bush ortree. They visit the ground to feed, but moreoften to drink. They are catholic in theirtastes and will be attracted to bird tables(feeding stations) by the provision of cur-rants, raisins, dates or prunes. In the wildthey will feed on flowing sap. Waxwings areoften very tame and will enter cities and feednear the feet of people.

All waxwings are monogamous. Pairingoccurs in the winter flocks. A courtshipritual takes place in which a male andfemale pass an object back and forthbetween them several times. In Bohemianwaxwings the object is sometimes inedibleand is not swallowed but in Cedar waxwings the display ends when one bird eats theberry which the pair have used. It is appar-ently not known whether it is always onesex or the other that thus terminates thesequence. This display may have its evolu-tionary origin in courtship feeding offemales by males, but has now becomehighly ritualized.
Pairs do not defend territories, except forthe area immediately around the nest. Insome areas loose colonies are formed. Thenest is built by both parents but the femaledoes most of this work. Nest sites are wellaway from the main trunk of a tree on ahorizontal limb. The height of the nest maybe up to I 7m (soft) above the ground. Thenest itself is loose and bulky, made of twigs,grass and lichens, and lined with fine gras-ses, mosses and pine needles.

They can oftenlook very similar to loose piles of moss and twigs that have collected by chance on abranch. Females do all or nearly all of theincubation but are fed on the nest by theirmates. Both parents feed the young. Mostwaxwings are single-brooded but Cedarwaxwings are occasionally double-brooded.

Out of the breeding season waxwings arefound in flocks which roam widely in searchof food. In some years they spread much fur-ther south–traveling by day—and in largernumbers than usual. The causes of theseinvasions are not fully understood but impli-cated as important factors are food scarcityand population levels. There is some evi-dence that waxwing numbers grow and fallfollowing a xo-year cycle, independent offood availability, though it is difficult to sug-gest what other factor could drive suchcycles. Waxwings do not seem to return tothe same areas to nest every year so it seemsthat they lead a nomadic existence, prob-ably governed by the availability of berries.

The Gray hypocolius has a restricted dis-tribution in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Itsbiology is little known although it showssome of the characteristics of waxwings(such as flocking outside the breedingseason and fruit-eating). It feeds on dates,figs, nightshade and mulberry fruits. A quietbird with no known song, it spends muchof its time hidden in foliage.

The best known silky-flycatcher is thephainopepla whose scientific name means”shining robes”. The male is black, with ared eye and white wing-patches. The femaleis olive-gray. Both sexes have long tails andare crested. Their open cup nest, heldtogether by spider silk, is built largely by the
male, who also does much of the incubationduring the day.

The biology of the other three silky-flycatchers is less well known. All four spe-cies feed on berries, petals and insects.Insects are caught in spectacular flightsfrom high perches. Several insects may becaptured on each sortie. All species areloosely colonial.

The palmchat is sometimes assigned to thewaxwing family. It is similar to them inbeing a gregarious fruit-eater. It differs fromthem in having rougher plumage and aheavier bill.

The most striking aspect of palmchat life,as least as we know it at present, is thecommunal nesting habit. Large nests, overim (3ft) in diameter and 3m (about T oft)high, are built communally by up to 30 pairs(though most nests are probably built bymany fewer birds, and some just by pairs).In the lowlands the usual nest-site is in thefrond bases of a Royal palm, but conifers arcused at higher altitudes.

Each pair has itsown compartment and entrance to the nestand as far as is known each pair livesindependently of the rest. However, it is diffi-cult to observe any interactions whichmight occur within the nest. The nest is usedcommunally for roosting outside the breed-ing season. The advantages (and disadvan-tages) of this communal life-style are notknown for this species.
Palmchats live wholly in trees, feeding onberries and flowers. They are common andconspicuous but the details of their biologyremain unknown.

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