The vangas are small to medium-sized perching birds that are only found on Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa and Comoros – an island nation located off the eastern coast of Africa.


Vangas are small to medium-sized birds, varying from 12 to 32 cm in length.

Bill Shape:

  • Most have strong, hooked bills similar to those of shrikes.
  • The Helmet Vanga has a particularly large bill with a casque on top.
  • Some species, such as the newtonias, have a small, thin bill.
  • The Sickle-billed Vanga has a long, curved bill.


  • Most vangas are largely black, brown or grey above and white below.
  • The exceptions are the blue and white Blue Vanga and the blue-grey Nuthatch Vanga.
  • The Helmet Vanga is mostly black with a rufous back.
  • Male Bernier’s Vangas are entirely black while the females are brown.

Sickle-billed Vanga, Falculea palliata

Distribution and habitat

All vangas occur on the island of Madagascar, except for the Blue Vanga which is also found on the Comoros on Mohéli island and, at least formerly, on Grande Comore. They are resident (non-migratory) within their range.

Diet / Feeding

The feed on insects, earthworms, millipedes, lizards and amphibian; except for the Blue Vanga and Chabert’s Vanga which may take fruits.

Most species forage in mixed-species flocks; except for the Hook-billed Vanga and Lafresnaye’s Vanga, which tend to feed alone.

Nesting / Feeding

Typically nest in in pairs; their cup-shaped nests are constructed out of twigs, bark, roots and leaves. The Sickle-billed Vanga nests in groups and builds a large nest of sticks.

Calls / Vocalizations

Most vangas emit whistling calls.

White-headed Vanga, Artamella viridis

Female Red-shouldered Vanga (Calicalicus rufocarpalis)

Recognized Sub-species

  • Genus: Calicalicus
    • Red-tailed Vanga, Calicalicus madagascariensis
    • Red-shouldered Vanga, Calicalicus rufocarpalis – Regarded as Vulnerable.
    Genus: Schetba
    • Rufous Vanga, Schetba rufa
    Genus: Vanga
    • Hook-billed Vanga, Vanga curvirostris
    Genus: Xenopirostris
    • Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Xenopirostris xenopirostris
    • Van Dam’s Vanga, Xenopirostris damii – Endangered as it is restricted to a small area of north-west Madagascar where the forest is rapidly disappearing due to clearance for agriculture and uncontrolled bushfires
    • Pollen’s Vanga, Xenopirostris polleni – Classified as Near-threatened by BirdLife International
    Genys: Falculea Genus: Artamella
    • White-headed Vanga, Artamella viridis
    Genus: Leptopterus
    • Chabert’s Vanga, Leptopterus chabert – Relatively common.
    Genus: Cyanolanius
    • Blue Vanga, Cyanolanius madagascarinus
      • Comoro Blue Vanga, Cyanolanius (madagascarinus) comorensis.
    Genus: Oriolia
    • Bernier’s Vanga, Oriolia bernieri – Regarded as Vulnerable.
    Genus: Euryceros
    • Helmet Vanga, Euryceros prevostii – Regarded as Vulnerable.
    Genus: Tylas
    • Tylas Vanga, Tylas eduardi
    Genus: Hypositta
    • Nuthatch Vanga or Coral-billed Nuthatch-vanga, Hypositta corallirostris
    • Bluntschli’s Vanga or Short-toed Nuthatch-vanga, Hypositta perdita – Only described from two old specimens and its taxonomic status questionable.
    Genus: Newtonia
    • Dark Newtonia, Newtonia amphichroa
    • Common Newtonia, Newtonia brunneicauda
    • Archbold’s Newtonia, Newtonia archboldi
    • Red-tailed Newtonia, Newtonia fanovanae – Regarded as Vulnerable.
    Genus: Mystacornis
    • Crossley’s Babbler, Mystacornis crossleyi
    Genus: Pseudobias
    • Ward’s Flycatcher, Pseudobias wardi
Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

We love to hear from our readers. If you have any questions or if you want to get in touch with us, you can find our contact details on our About Us page.

Leave a Comment