Another classic #BeakoftheWeek! The exquisite helmet vanga with its iconic blue bill is the subject of this blog article. Endemic to the wonderful island nation of Madagascar, home to lemurs and aye-ayes, this species is vying for attention with its striking features. They missed a trick not having this guy in the movies.
This species is highly distinctive with its huge hooked blue bill. It is ~30cm long and weights about 100g. It’s mostly black except for its rump, back and central tail feathers which are chestnut. Juveniles bills are pale brown. They are seen on their own or in mixed flocks with other vangas, cuckoo-shrikes and other passerines.
They inhabit the evergreen humid lowland forests and forage 3-10m from the ground feeding on a variety of insects including cockroaches, butterflies, crickets and other invertebrates. Also known to feed on frogs and chameleons. Pairs are monogamous and lay clutches of 2-3 eggs sharing incubation, breeding and feeding duties. Chicks fledge after c.17 days. Here’s a great close up of one on a nest.
Listed as of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Redlist, it is estimated that there are between 6000-15000 mature individuals, although this number is thought to be in decline. Once again you can go to Xeno Canto to see where they are found in Madagascar and listen to some calls. This is a nice short video of one perched on a tree.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Euryceros prevostii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/07/2015.
Yamagishi, S. & Nakamura, M. (2009). Helmet Vanga (Euryceros prevostii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/60567 on 7 July 2015).