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A photo of a Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus), male
Grey Hypocolius, Male

Grey Hypocolius

Hypocolius ampelinus

The Grey Hypocolius, Hypocolius ampelinus, is a small passerine bird, unique as the sole member of its genus and family, Hypocoliidae. This bird is a slender creature with a long tail, a slight crest, and a thick, short, hook-tipped bill. Its soft, satiny plumage is reminiscent of the waxwing, and it is primarily a uniform grey or brownish-grey. The male is distinguished by a black triangular mask around the eyes, white-tipped black primary wing feathers, and a black terminal band on the tail. Adults measure approximately 19–21 cm in length.

Identification Tips

When excited, the Grey Hypocolius raises its head feathers. It exhibits a straight, non-undulating flight pattern and can appear babbler-like when hopping in shrubbery. The tarsus is short and sturdy, with coarse scales, and rictal bristles are visible at the base of the bill. The nostrils are small, oval, and exposed.

Habitat

This bird inhabits woodland and scrub in arid and semiarid regions, particularly river valleys near deserts, as well as irrigated and cultivated areas with trees, coastal areas, palm groves, and gardens.

Distribution

The Grey Hypocolius breeds in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan. It winters near the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coasts of Arabia, including Bahrain, and is a regular winter visitor to the Kutch and Jamnagar regions of western India. It has been recorded as a vagrant in Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Oman.

Behaviour

A shy and cryptic bird, the Grey Hypocolius will seek thick cover when disturbed and remain motionless until danger passes. It forms flocks, particularly in winter, and roosts communally.

Breeding

The breeding season occurs in June or July in Arabia. The nest is a cup shape, deep, and lined with hair and fluff, often placed on the leaves of a date palm at a height of 3 to 5 feet. Both sexes participate in nest building. The clutch typically consists of four leaden white eggs with blotches, and incubation lasts about 14–15 days.

Diet and Feeding

The Grey Hypocolius forages quietly and methodically in foliage, preferring clusters of trees, palm groves, and orchards, and rarely descends to the ground. Its diet is primarily fruits and berries, such as Real mustard fruits, mulberries, figs, and dates. In captivity, they have been known to accept bread.

Song & Calls

The bird's vocal repertoire includes a series of squealing descending notes or "kleeeu" whistles, as well as scolding chirps.

Conservation status

The Grey Hypocolius is classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN due to its large range. Its unique taxonomic status makes it a coveted sighting for birdwatchers.

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Grey Hypocoliuses on Birda

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