Corvinella melanoleuca (Magpie shrike, Long-tailed shrike) 

Langstertlaksman [Afrikaans]; umQonqotho [Zulu]; Muruli [Kwangali]; Ncilongi [Tsonga]; Motsilodi, Tilodi [Tswana]; Eksterklauwier [Dutch]; Corvinelle noir et blanc [French]; Elsterwürger [German]; Picanço-rabilongo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Laniidae

Corvinella melanoleuca (Magpie shrike, Long-tailed shrike) 

Magpie shrike, Marakele National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Corvinella melanoleuca (Magpie shrike, Long-tailed shrike) 
Magpie shrikes, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

Distribution and habitat

It has three separate populations - one in Kenya and Tanzania, another in Malawi and northern Mozambique and the largest one from Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it locally common in Zimbabwe, Botswana, north-eastern Namibia, Limpopo Province, Gauteng and North-West Province. It favours open savanna woodland with short grass clumps and bare ground, also occurring in broad-leaved woodland and disturbed areas with Acacia tree stands, such as in suburban gardens and town parks.

Distribution of Magpie shrike in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It mainly eats insects, using a variety of foraging techniques. It often perches in a prominent position, searching for a food item. Once it spots something it dives to the ground and catches it. It also gleans prey from leaves and branches, and sometimes searches for them at ground level. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • A facultative cooperative breeder, meaning that the breeding pair or assisted by 1-3 helpers who are usually juveniles from the previous brood.
  • Nest construction is handled by both sexes - group members have never been observed assisting them. It basically consists of an untidy cup made of twigs, grass stems and roots, typically placed in the upper branches of an Acacia tree.
Corvinella melanoleuca (Magpie shrike, Long-tailed shrike)  

Magpie shrike at its nest, Sericea, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season peaks from October-January.
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 16 days, the male and group members providing her with food.
  • The chicks are cared for both parents and group members, leaving the nest after about 15-19 days. As it usually lays two clutches per breeding season the fledglings help to rear the next brood.


Not threatened.



  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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