The African paradise- flycatcher is one of the most striking of the flycatchers found in the southern African region, not just because of its distinctive chestnut colouring that sets it apart from the other local flycatchers, but also because of the male’s strikingly long tail. Indeed, the male’s tail is more than the length of its body (approximately 17 cm); the tail of the female is considerably shorter.
The males and females have similar plumage colouration, with the males being slightly larger than the females and having the longer tail. They are predominantly chestnut, with dark, bluish-black heads and necks and blue eye-rings. Bills are blue; legs and feet are bluish-grey. Their legs are relatively short and when perched they have quite an upright stance.
African paradise-flycatchers are fairly common in the southern African region, and migrate to warmer parts of the continent, including the north-east coast of South Africa, during the cold winter months. In summer (from Sept/Oct to Mar/Apr) they are found singly or in pairs throughout the region with the exception of the very dry areas. Their favourite habitat is open woodland, riparian forests and orchards and gardens with plenty of trees.
As their name suggests, the African paradise flycatchers feed mainly on insects, which they usually catch while in flight, but will also eat caterpillars, spiders and some berries and fruit. They are very noisy birds and can be difficult to photograph as they seem to be constantly on the move as they weave their way through the tangled branches beneath the canopy, where the light is patchy and of poor quality.
African paradise flycatchers are monogamous and build a small cup-shaped nest, often on an exposed branch, and often camouflaged with lichen. Camouflaged the nest may be, but when the male is incubating the eggs his impressive tail hangs well clear of the nest and his presence may be quite obvious to passers-by! The female lays a clutch of two or three white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 15 days.
The scientific binomial for the African paradise flycatcher is Terpsiphone viridis; Terpsiphone from the Greek for “a delightful voice”; and viridis from the Latin for “green”, perhaps a reference to the greeny-blue tinge to the bird’s head. Thus the name describes a green bird (or perhaps a bird wiuth a green head?) that has a delightful voice. Well, I think that both the delightful voice and the green plumage are really a stretch!!