A common member of the shrike family occurring in woodland, thickets and forests (as well as well-planted parks and gardens), the Black-backed Puffback feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates and occasionally small berries.
Black-backed Puffbacks are usually seen singly or in monogamous pairs, often foraging along with other insectivorous birds, usually quite high in the tree tops. They breed throughout the year with a definite peak in the spring and early summer, building cup-shaped nests using soft plant material and spiderwebs in the fork of a branch. The male has an impressive display, fanning pure white plumes on its back in the shape of a powder puff (see image below) to impress his female before mating. The pair is quite brave in the defense of their nest, eggs and chicks, even attacking venomous snakes venturing too close. The parents take turns to incubate the clutch of 2 or 3 eggs over a 2 week period, with the hatchlings leaving the nest about 3 weeks after emerging from the eggs.
Adults measure about 17cm and tip the scales at around 26g.
Black-backed Puffbacks are considered to be of least concern and occurs widely south of the equator in east, central and southern Africa. In our country they’re found from the Garden Route through the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng into Limpopo and the Northwest Province.