Rufous-bellied Helmetshrike
14 07 005 Prionops rufiventris rufiventris
Common Name Gabon Helmetshrike
Range Central Africa
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Prionopidae
Genus Prionops
Species Prionops rufiventris

The Rufous-bellied helmetshrike or Gabon helmetshrike (Prionops rufiventris), is a species of helmetshrike in the Prionopidae family, formerly usually included in the Malaconotidae. It inhabits tropical forest in Central Africa. It is sometimes included within the red-billed helmetshrike (Prionops caniceps) of West Africa.


It is 20-22 cm long. The adult has glossy black upperparts and throat and reddish-brown underparts with a narrow white breastband. The top and sides of the head and the chin are pale blue-grey and there are bushy whitish feathers on the forehead. The wings are broad and rounded with a white band across the primaries. The bill, legs and feet are orange-red and the eye is yellow with a bare orange-red ring around it. The eastern subspecies Prionops rufiventris mentalis has darker underparts and a grey-brown eye. Juvenile birds are duller than the adults and have a pale buff-white breast and belly and a largely whitish head. The bill is blackish and the legs and feet are dark orange.

It is a noisy bird with a variety of complex chattering and whistling calls. Birds often call together in a duet or chorus. They also make bill-snapping sounds and the wings produce a sound during flight.

Distribution and Habitat

The western subspecies Prionops rufiventris rufiventris is found in southern Cameroon, mainland Equatorial Guinea, south-west Central African Republic, northern and western Gabon, Cabinda and parts of the Republic of Congo and north-western Democratic Republic of Congo. Prionops rufiventris mentalis occurs in central and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and western Uganda and formerly occurred in Rwanda.


Its behavior has been little-studied. It typically feeds in pairs or small groups and often joins mixed-species foraging flocks. It most often forages around the middle level of trees at 10-30 m above the ground. It makes short flights to catch prey or gleans items from small branches. The diet consists of insects and other arthropods. The bird appears to breed in groups with one dominant pair helped by the others.

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