Cape grassbird

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Cape grassbird
Sphenoeacus afer.jpg
Song recorded in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Scientific classification

S. afer
Binomial name
Sphenoeacus afer
(Gmelin, 1789)

The Cape grassbird or Cape grass warbler (Sphenoeacus afer) is an African warbler found in southern Africa.


Formerly placed in the Sylviidae family, it is the only member of the genus Sphenoeacus. The taxonomy of the "African warblers", an assemblage of usually species-poor and apparently rather ancient "odd warblers" from Africa, is currently in a state of flux.


Gr. sphen wedge; oiax helm/rudder, in reference to the wedge-shaped tail [2]


A calling bird from Table Mountain, Cape Town

The Cape grassbird is 17 to 19 centimetres (6.7 to 7.5 in) long and weighs around 30 grams (1.1 oz) Its crown and face sides are rufous, except for white around the eye, and it has black malar and moustachial stripes on its white throat. The upperparts are brown with heavy streaking and the long tail is a lighter brown while the underparts are whitish with blackish spotting. The sexes are similar, but the juvenile has a streaked cap and is duller than the adult. The song is jangling and musical, and the call is a nasal pheeeo.

The long, pointed, straggly tail, chestnut cap and facial stripes are diagnostic of Cape grassbird. It is much larger than any cisticola, and the heavily streaked back and the pointed tail eliminate confusion with moustached grass warbler.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Cape grassbird breeds in southern Africa in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland with an isolated population in eastern Zimbabwe. It is a common species of coastal and mountain fynbos and long, rank grass on mountain slopes or in river valleys.


The Cape grassbird builds a cup nest flow in vegetation. This species is monogamous, pairing for life. Its eggs have one of the slowest rates of embryonic development amongst Southern African species.[3]

The Cape grassbird is usually seen alone or in pairs, moving through vegetation foraging for insects and other small invertebrates.

Conservation status[edit]

This common species has a large range, with an estimated extent of 390,000 square kilometres (150,000 sq mi). The population size is believed to be large, and the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as of least concern.[1]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Sphenoeacus afer". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ 'Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names' - James A. Jobling
  3. ^[permanent dead link]
  • Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1

External links[edit]