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Dryoscopus cubla (Black-backed puffback, Puffback) 

Sneeubal [Afrikaans]; Intakembila, Unomaswana [Xhosa]; iBhoboni (also applied to Southern Boubou) [Zulu]; Nankuwo [Kwangali]; Phavomu [Tsonga]; Poederdonsklauwier [Dutch]; Cubla boule-de-neige [French]; Schneeballwürger [German]; Picanço-de-almofadinha [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Malaconotidae

Dryoscopus cubla (Black-backed puffback, Puffback) Dryoscopus cubla (Black-backed puffback, Puffback)

Black-backed puffback male in non-breeding plumage, Tsitsikamma National Park, Eastern Cape. [photo Duncan Robertson ©].

Black-backed puffback female, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Dryoscopus cubla (Black-backed puffback, Puffback) 

Black-backed puffback, Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitats

Occurs from Angola and East Africa to southern Africa, where it is locally common across Mozambique, Botswana, eastern Zimbabwe, Limpopo Province and coastal habitats from KwaZulu-Natal to Swellendam, Western Cape. It generally prefers woodland habitats, as well as evergreen forest edges, riverine forest, Eucalyptus plantations and suburban gardens.

Distribution of Black-backed puffback in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It has been recorded as prey of the following animals:


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging in the upper canopy, gleaning insects from leaves and branches and occasionally catching prey in flight. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Plants
    • fruit of Salvadora (mustard tree)
    • Acacia buds


  • The nest is a tidy, compact cup made of grass, roots and bark bound together with spider web and lined with fine grass. It is built solely by the female, while the male helps collect material, regurlarly displaying and calling nearby. It is often decorated with lichen and bark, so that it is camouflaged with the forked branch it is bound to.
Dryoscopus cubla (Black-backed puffback, Puffback) Dryoscopus cubla (Black-backed puffback, Puffback)

Black-backed puffback incubating its eggs, which are pictured to the right, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, but it usually peaks around September-December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female for about 13 days. The male regurlarly gives her food, occasionaly taking over for short periods so that she can forage for herself.
  • The female is given food by the male, especially insects, which she then feeds to the young nestlings. The chicks stay in the nest for about 18 days and can fend for themselves 3 weeks later, but they can still remain in their parents territory into the next breeding season.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.