Black-backed Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla)
Photo was taken through my kitchen window in Marloth Park
A compact, black and white bird of tall trees and forests.
Size 16-18cm - a bit larger than a sparrow.
The bill is short, straight with a sharp hook at the end of the upper mandible . The bill is not as heavy as that of the Fiscal Shrike. The bill is black and the legs and feet are grey.
The underparts are white, and the upperparts black with white markings. The female has less black on the head, and is duller in general appearance. It may show a slight white eyebrow. Both sexes have an obvious red eye. The Black-backed Puffback is smaller than a Boubou or Fiscal shrike, and has much more white on the wings and back.
This is a common species of thick bush, riverine forest and other well-wooded habitats. It is found from the Garden route northwards, and also occurs in well-wooded gardens. It spends most of the time within the canopy, working through the foliage in search of prey. It is usually seen singly, or in pairs, often in the company of other birds, with which it form bird parties - particularly in the non-breeding season.
The name "Puffback" is derived from the courtship display, which involves the male fluffing out its spectacular white rump plumes, which make it look a bit like a snowball, hence the Afrikaans name "sneeubal".
It subsists almost entirely on insects, which are gleaned from the foliage it works through.
The usual call consists of two syllables, a click like chick, followed immediately by a more drawn out wheeeu. This is usually repeated a number of times in quick succession. The "chick" sounds a bit like a Zulu "q": q-weeu, q-weeu, q-weeu, q-weeu, q-weeu, q-weeu, q-weeu.
Nesting takes place mainly in the summer months (generally September to January). The Nest is a small neat cup of grass roots and bark, firmly bonded with spider webs, lined with fine grass. It is placed in the slender fork of an upright tree some 2-12m above the ground.
Information obtained from SASOL Bird e-Guide