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the web of life in southern Africa

Tchagra tchagra (Southern tchagra) 

Grysborstjagra [Afrikaans]; Umnguphane (generic term for tchagra) [Xhosa]; Kaapse tsjagra [Dutch]; Tchagra du Cap [French]; Kaptschagra [German]; Picanço-assobiador-austral [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

Tchagra tchagra (Southern tchagra) 

Southern tchagra, Overberg, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa and Swaziland, occurring from the Western Cape to KwaZulu-Natal bordering on Mpumalanga. It is common throughout most of its range, although it is more localized in Mpumalanga, Swaziland and eastern KwaZulu-Natal. It mainly occupies coastal, thorny thickets, edges of coastal dune forest, tangled fynbos and dense Acacia stands.

Distribution of Southern tchagra 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.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Jacobin cuckoo.


It mainly eats insects, foraging close to the ground, turning over bits of vegetation looking for prey. It also gleans insects from leaves and branches and eats fallen seeds and fruit. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
    • Pugnacious ants, taken directly from their nest
    • grasshoppers
    • small beetles
  • spiders
  • small fruits
  • seeds
    • Maytenus (Silky bark)


  • The nest is probably built by both sexes, and consists of a shallow cup built of fine plant stems, twigs and rootlets, the inside lined with finer rootlets and hair. In the Western Cape it is usually placed in the fork of thick scrub or bush, but further east it also puts it at the base of Aloe ferox (Bitter aloe) as well as in tangled creepers growing over cabbage-tree (Cussonia).
  • It lays 2-3 white eggs with coloured dots and streaks, which are incubated for about 15-16 days.
  • The chicks are brooded almost constantly for the first 8-10 days or so, after which brooding almost completely ceases. They are cared for by both parents, leaving the nest after about 13-16 days.


Not threatened, in fact common in areas of South Africa.


  • 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.