Ethiopian Boubou Laniarius aethiopicus Scientific name definitions

Hilary Fry, Peter Pyle, Peter F. D. Boesman, and Nárgila Moura
Version: 2.0 — Published June 23, 2023

Photos from this Account

Juvenile Ethiopian Boubou, undergoing Preformative Molt. 

Worn, brown juvenile crown feathers and scapulars, with buff tips, contrast with darker formative body feathers. The underparts are dingier whitish with more pale brown (often barred dusky) than in later plumages. Juvenile wing coverts and remiges are brown and fringed pale or the white greater coverts can be marked with dusky.

Juvenile Ethiopian Boubou.

Juvenile body feathering is more filamentous due to lower barb densities than formative and basic feathers.

Ethiopian Boubou with juvenile rectrices,

Juvenile rectrices are relatively narrow and tapered at the tips, the outer 1-2 pairs (among r5-r6) with wider white tips

Formative Ethiopian Boubou.

Formative Plumage sepeerated from Definitive Basic Plumage by duller and browner upperparts (as here), molt limits among the upperwing coverts, and narrower, browner, and more worn, retained juvenile flight feathers. Here note some lower lesser coverts and the inner grater coverts are brown and juvenile, contrasting with inner lesser coverts and scapulars. The retained juvenile rectrices are narrow, rounded at the tips, and worn, with the white tips to the outer feathers (r5-r6) nearly worn off. .

Formative Ethiopian Boubou.

Note the replaced formative greater coverts contrasting with the worn brown juvenile primary coverts, alula, and remiges. The juvenile rectrices are brownish and quite abraded, the outre feathers with white tips. Formative crown and upperpart feathering averages duller and more brownish than definitive basic feathering. Note also that the iris appears dull and brown, lacking red.

Fprmative Ethiopian Boubou.

This bird appears to have retained most of the juvenile median and greater coverts. Note the dusky marks to the juvenile white upperwing secondary coverts and pale fringing on the dark coverts.

Definitive Basic Ethiopian Boubou.

Definitive Basic Plumage is best separated form Formative Plumage by averaging glossier and blacker (bluish black, less brownish) upperparts. The upperwing secondary coverts, primary coverts, alula, and remiges are uniform in coloration and wear, without molt limits (but beware they become tinged brownish with wear and contrast with the glossier back feathers, as is slightly the case here). The outer primaries and rectrices are broader, relatively fresher, and more truncate at the tips. Note also the deep iris color which is usually tinged reddish on birds in this plumage.

Definitive Basic Ethiopian Boubou.

When fresh, the back and wings are fairly uniformly glossy black. Note also the broad and truncate outer rectrcies.

Definitive Basic Ethiopian Boubou.

When worn, the wing feathers and rectirces (especially the central pair) can become tinged brownish and contrast with the glossier and blacker upperpart feathers. These birds can be identified by the lack of limits among wing feathers, broad shapes to the flight feathers, and deeper and redder irises.

Ethiopian Boubou commencing Definitive Prebasic Molt.

The Definitive Prebasic Molt likely occurs within 1–4 months following breeding, as occurs in most passerines, perhaps primarily May-October in this species. The bird in front here is worn and has dropped the second tertial to initiate prebasic molt. The unmolted wing and tail feathers, despite being brown and worn, are uniformly broad and fresher than retained juvenile feathers of Formative Plumage, and this bird is thus initiating a Definitive rather than the Second Prebasic Molt.

Ethiopian Boubou undergoing Definitive Prebasic Molt.

Here the tertials and inner primaries have been replaced and the outer primaries and middle secondaries (s4-s6) are unmolted, with adjacent outer secondaries (s2-s3) being replaced proximally. The wear clines among the tertials indicate replacement in sequence s8-s9-s7, as common in birds, and perhaps a protracted or suspended molt, given the moderate state of wear to s8.

Ethiopian Boubou completing Prebasic Molt.

The outer primaries are worn and brown, indicating completion of molt following breeding, perhaps primarily in May_October in this species. The extent of wear to the unmolted primaries indicates the possibility that they are juvenile and that this is the Second Prebasic Molt.

Adult Ethiopian Boubou.

The bill in is stout and strong, with a slight hook at the tip, and is jet black. In adults the iris is deeply colored and brownish red to reddish. The legs and feet can be pale grayish to slate colored.

Adult Ethiopian Boubou.

The iris can be quite reddish in some adults. The orbital skin is black.

First-year Ethiopian Boubou.

In juveniles, the iris is duller brown (or washed grayish) and becomes reddish-brown during the first year. The legs and feet on this bird are slaty gray and the claws are black.

Macaulay Library Photos for Ethiopian Boubou

Top-rated photos submitted to the Macaulay Library via eBird. Note: Our content editors have not confirmed the species identification for these photos.

Recommended Citation

Fry, H., P. Pyle, P. F. D. Boesman, and N. Moura (2023). Ethiopian Boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.trobou2.02