Cuckoo-shrikes are neither closely related to the cuckoos or shrikes,
name probably comes from the grey color of many of the cuckoo-shrikes.
Some of the species also bear a superficial resemblance to cuckoos, and
have a similar undulating flight. The grey coloration has led to one of
their other names, the greybird. In some parts of the world they have
also been known as caterpillar-birds, a name derived from their diet.
They are in fact thought by some to be closely related to the Old World
orioles (Oriolidae), although they differ strongly in some morphological
characteristics (such as skull morphology and the arrangements of
feathers on the wing).
Overall the cuckoo-shrikes are medium to small arboreal birds,
generally long and slender. They are predominately greyish with white
and black, although the minivets are brightly colored in red, yellow and
black, and the Blue Cuckoo-shrike of central Africa is all-over glossy
blue. The four cuckoo-shrikes in the genus Campephaga exhibit sexual
dimorphism (visual physical differences between the sexes) , with males
that have glossy black plumage and bright red or yellow wattles, the
females having more subdued olive-green plumage.
Of the 84 species of cuckoo-shrike, the majority are forest birds.
Some species are restricted to primary forest, like the New Caledonian
Cuckoo-shrike, others are able to use more disturbed forest. Around
eleven species use much more open habitat, one Australian species, the
Ground Cuckoo-shrike being found in open plains and scrubland with few
The 'true' cuckoo-shrikes are usually found singly, in pairs, and in
small family groups, whereas the minivets, flycatcher-shrikes and
wood-shrikes more frequently form small flocks. There is a considerable
amount of variation within the family as a whole with regards to calls,
some call very infrequently and some, principally the minivets, are
These are mainly insectivorous, and will take large hairy
caterpillars. They have also been recorded eating small vertebrates, and
some fruit, seeds and other plant matter. About four blotchy white,
green or blue eggs are laid in a cup nest in a tree. Incubation is about