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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


Formerly considered part of the 'Tropical Boubou complex,' vocal behavior of this specific taxon has hardly been studied. Its voice is rather similar to Tropical Boubou (Laniarius major), and thus the extensive knowledge gathered for Tropical Boubou (which see) may possibly also apply to Ethiopian Boubou. Nonetheless, the treatment herein is conservative, and only mentions below what is known specifically for the Ethiopian Boubou.


Vocal Development

Information needed.

Vocal Array

Duet. Male and female sing a highly synchronized antiphonal duet, usually of 2–4 notes (1‒2 male-female exchanges), sometimes more. Such duet phrases are repeated several times with rather steady intervals. The duet repertoire is quite extensive and includes either a combination of repeated fluty whistles uttered by both sexes but at variable pitch, or a combination of similar whistles with harsh tearing, croaking, or snarling sounds. Fluty whistles vary from a low-pitched single hoo through a double boubou (hence its name), and harsh notes include a tearing weeeer, krzzzz, croaks, and nasal snoring haaw. Some common duet phrases can be transcribed as wii-hoo-wii-hoo or wii-hoohoo-hoo-hoo (17). Duets by 3 or more birds may be of a pair and its offspring, or two pairs counter-singing during territorial boundary setting.

Solo song. This is either the male or the female part of the duet without response from a mate.

Chek. A short dry chek or tchuk, repeated several times.

Rattle. A fast-paced kek-kek-kek-kek-kek..., with notes similar to the Chek call, but barely countable and sounding like a staccato mechanical rattle.

Scold. A harsh nasal scolding rrreh, often given in series of 2‒4 notes.

Geographic Variation

Information needed.


Little information. Sound recordings of duetting are from November to February, but this may merely reflect increased recording effort in that period.

Daily Pattern of Vocalizing

Duetting occurs more during the morning, but can be heard any time of the day.

Places of Vocalizing

When a pair starts duetting, they often move higher off the ground than during their usual activities, typically remaining concealed but occasionally also perching on an exposed site.

Sex Differences

Male and female each have a distinct role in the duet, but this has not been studied in detail.

Social Content and Presumed Functions of Vocalizations

Important functions of the duet are joint territorial defense and mutual mate-guarding.

Nonvocal Sounds

None documented.

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