The akalats (stressed on the second syllable) are medium-sized insectivorous birds in the genus Sheppardia. They were formerly placed in the thrush family, Turdidae, but are more often now treated as part of the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae.
- Bocage's akalat, Sheppardia bocagei
- Lowland akalat, Sheppardia cyornithopsis
- Equatorial akalat, Sheppardia aequatorialis
- Sharpe's akalat, Sheppardia sharpei
- East coast akalat, Sheppardia gunningi
- Gabela akalat, Sheppardia gabela
- Usambara akalat, Sheppardia montana
- Iringa akalat, Sheppardia lowei
- Rubeho akalat, Sheppardia aurantiithorax
Sharpe, who had never visited Africa, associated the akalats, in their Bulu appellation, with birds of "different kinds" occurring in the forest understorey. His main collector in West Africa, George L. Bates, denoted them more specifically as "little members of the genus Turdinus, which are called in Fang and Bulu "Akalat"....". The latter genus denoted a group of Old World babblers, currently classed as near-babblers in the genus Illadopsis.
Bannerman's volumes on West African birds, published from 1930 through to 1951, became well-established reference works for the region, and retained the name akalat for Trichastoma, which is Illadopsis. Reichenow however classed Turdinus batesi as an Alethe, then in the Turdidae (thrushes and flycatchers), followed by Jackson and Sclater in 1938 who applied it to Sheppardia specifically. Mackworth-Praed and Grant (1953, 1955) and Williams (1963 - 1980s) retained their usage. In 1964 the name was still recorded as denoting both groups, namely the Malococincla, i.e. Illadopsis near-babblers in West Africa, and the Sheppardia chats in East African literature, though the latter convention prevailed in modern times.
Yet the calls of the aforementioned species only doubtfully agree with the akalat's appellation as an omen of death. It is recorded that the akalat's forest song, respectively referred to as "boofio" and "woofio" by the Bulu and Ntumu peoples, is believed by them to predict the death of a near parent who bids them farewell with this song.
- As recorded by George L. Bates
- Sharpe, R.B. (1904). "On further Collections of Birds from the Efulen District of Camaroon, West Africa, Part II". Ibis 46 (4): 591–638. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919x.1904.tb00524.x.
- Sharpe, R.B. (1908). "On further Collections of Birds from the Efulen District of Camaroon, West Africa, Parts V & VI". Ibis 46 (9): 119.
- Reichenow, A. (1905). Die Vögel Afrikas, Vol. 3. Neudamm: J. Neumann.
- Jackson, F.J. & Sclater W.L. (1938). The birds of Kenya Colony and the Uganda Protectorate, Vol. 2. London: Gurney & Jackson.
- A New Dictionary of Birds, ed. Sir A. Landsborough Thomson (London, Nelson, 1964)
- Culture Vive, Phénomène des Présages Chez les Fang/Beti, under Beti-Fang-Bulu, retrieved 2011-03-08: Un autre présage de mort est le chant de l’oiseau appelé «akalat», chez les Bulu «Boofio», chez les Ntumu «Woofio». Ce chant est toujours entendu dans la forêt et prédit la mort d’un proche parent qui par ce chant vous fait ses adieux.