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Species Guide

Grey Cuckooshrike

Ceblepyris caesius

The Grey Cuckooshrike, Ceblepyris caesius, is a medium-sized bird of the forest, cloaked in shades of grey to blue-grey plumage, with a strikingly large black eye encircled by a thin white ring. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males sporting a dark grey loreal patch, in contrast to the lighter grey of the females.

Identification Tips

Adults can be identified by their blue-grey head and body, black bill and legs, and the distinctive white eye-ring. Males have a darker grey loreal patch, while females are a slightly paler grey. Juveniles present a dark brown coloration with grey-white barring above and white underparts with brown barring. Their tails are black with white tips, and their flight feathers also have white edges.


The Grey Cuckooshrike favors Afromontane forests, lowland and coastal forests, as well as dense woodlands near rivers. They adapt to various elevations, from highland regions to coastal areas, and can be found foraging in plantations and urban trees during winter.


This species is native to sub-Saharan Africa, with two subspecies differing mainly in size. They are found in forest patches of southern and central Africa, with a range that includes South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, DRC, Malawi, and parts of East Africa.


The Grey Cuckooshrike is largely resident but may move to different elevations post-breeding. They forage in the upper canopy, hopping on branches and inspecting the undersides of leaves for insects. They are typically seen alone or in pairs, occasionally in small groups, and may join mixed-species flocks outside the breeding season.

Song & Calls

These birds are relatively quiet, emitting a faint, high-pitched "tseeeeep" while foraging and a "seeeeea" call near their nests. Other vocalizations include a weaver-like chatter and a sneeze-like "chi-ooo" sound.


Breeding occurs in the summer months in Southern Africa and during the rainy season in Central Africa, avoiding the wettest periods. Nests are shallow bowls made from lichen and spider webs, placed high in trees. Clutch size is typically one or two pale bluish-green eggs with olive and brown spots. Both parents incubate the eggs, and the species is monogamous.

Similar Species

The White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Ceblepyris pectoralis, is similar in appearance but can be distinguished by its striking white underparts and lower elevation habitat.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists primarily of insects such as crickets, caterpillars, locusts, spiders, winged termites, and beetles. They are adept at catching prey in the foliage and on tree trunks within their arboreal habitat.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Grey Cuckooshrike as Least Concern. While the population size is not well known, it is suspected to be decreasing due to habitat loss from deforestation. They are not considered common but are tolerant of human presence, sometimes venturing into urban areas and gardens.

Grey Cuckooshrike Sounds

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