The Black-faced Shrikebill (Clytorhynchus nigrogularis) is a thickset, medium-sized bird that measures up to 21 cm from the tip of the beak to the tail.

Also known as: Black-faced Shrikebill

Local Names: Kiro

Black-faced Shrikebill (Clytorhynchus nigrogularis)  map
Black-faced Shrikebill (Clytorhynchus nigrogularis) map

Description

The Black-faced Shrikebill is a thickset, medium-sized bird that measures up to 21 cm from the tip of the beak to the tail. Mature males are unmistakable with their black head and throat and contrasting grey-white ear coverts. The remaining plumage is a uniform grey-brown, although there is a considerable individual variation ranging from ashy-grey to a warl brown. Females also vary in colour but are more consistently brownish and lack the head pattern. Immature males are similar to females, gradually acquiring the male’s distinctive head plumage. The bill is heavy, hook-tipped and black with a horn-coloured tip; feet are bluish grey and eyes brown.

Distribution

The Black-faced Shrrikebill has recently been recognised as an endemic Fijian species where it has been recorded on the larger islands, Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Kadavu, Taveuni, and Ovalau. Until recently, another population of the Black-faced Shrikebill occurred as a separate subspecies on Nento, in the Santa Cruz Group of the Solomon Islands. However, this has recently been separated as a distinct species.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

The Black-faced Shrikebill is only found in mature forest and not in the more open wooded areas where the Lesser Shrikebill, Clytorhynchus vitiensis, often occurs. The Black-faced Shrikebill is an insectivorous bird, feeding in a similar manner to the Lesser Shrikebill. Lesser Shrikebills have a characteristic foraging method and are normally encountered as they noisily investigate dead vegetation, probing into curled leaves, pulling tangled vine tendrils apart and tearing off loose bark. Dislodged insects are pursued and caught as they fly off. However, the Black-faced shrikebill uses its more massive bill to tear open decaying stems and hollow branchlets. In so doing, sometimes attracts other forest birds, especially fantails, to glean escaping morsels. As yet nothing has been recorded on the breeding of the Black-faced Shrikebill.

Both species of Shrikebill have at least two types of call, a melodic whistle – often drawn out and wavering, and harsh scolding notes variously composed. The whistling calls of both species appear to have several variations, the commonest being a drawn out wavering call which may be upslurred, downslurred or on an even pitch. One call which has a distinctive character and has, to date, only been heard from the Black-faced is a short ascending whistle, repeated in series but with a varying interval.

Their flight is deliberate with quick wingbeats, slightly undulating.Threats
The forest surveys by Birdlife International have shown that the Black-faced Shrikebills are restricted to old growth forest, much of which is under threat by logging. It has been estimated that the Black-faced Shrikebills are declining at the same rate as forest loss and degradation, at 0.5-0.8% per year. Habitat loss to continued logging is the main threat to the survival of the population of this species.

Conservation Status

Recent surveys by Birdlife International have generated data on this species and have shown that it is more widespread than previously thought, but occurs at low population densities. They found 46 birds, and assuming that their current distribution is restricted to old growth forest estimate that there may be 2, 500 – 20, 000 birds remaining in Fiji,. Very few of these birds were recorded in degraded forests.

The Black-faced Shrikebill is categorised as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of threatened birds.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

Recent surveys by Birdlife International have generated data on this species and have shown that it is more widespread than previously thought, but occurs at low population densities. They found 46 birds, and assuming that their current distribution is restricted to old growth forest estimate that there may be 2, 500 – 20, 000 birds remaining in Fiji,. Very few of these birds were recorded in degraded forests. The Black-faced Shrikebill is categorised as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of threatened birds.

References

Masibalavu & Dutson (2005);
Watling (2004)

Illustration by: Chloe Talbot Kelly in Watling (2004).