home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Cercotrichas coryphoeus (Karoo scrub-robin) 

[= Erythropygia coryphaeus

Slangverklikker [Afrikaans]; Agrobate coryphée [French]; Karruheckensänger [German]; Rouxinol-do-mato do Karoo [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: Muscicapidae > Genus: Cercotrichas

Cercotrichas coryphoeus (Karoo scrub-robin)  Cercotrichas coryphoeus (Karoo scrub-robin) 
Karoo scrub-robin, West Coast Fossil Park, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©] Karoo scrub-robin, Greyton, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring from southern Namibia to much of the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape, extending into the Free State, Lesotho and the North-West Province. It generally prefers dry scrub with patches of bare ground, such as renosterveld, Karoo shrubland, fynbos, bushveld and drainage line woodland dominated by either Sweet thorn (Acacia karroo) or Wild tamarisk (Tamarix usneoides). It is also common in vegetation along dam walls and gardens of ram homesteads, and it may even forage on beaches in the intertidal zone.

Distribution of Karoo scrub-robin 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 Diderick cuckoo.


It mainly eats insects, especially ants, termites and beetles, doing the most of its foraging on bare ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous facultative cooperative breeder, as the roughly 10 week juveniles help their parents with rearing the next brood.
  • The nest (see image below) is an open cup set into a platform of large twigs, usually with a ramp of sticks protruding from one side of the structure, lined with fine material such as dry grass, leaf fragments, dried flowerheads, moss, sheep or goat hair and the fur of hares and small rodents. The sticks are often to large for it to carry in flight, so instead it drags them along ground, the whole nest construction process taking about 5-6 days in total. The female often builds it by herself, but the male and group members often feed her and help collect nesting material. It is typically placed at the base or in the foliage of a small shrub, in a recess of a gully bank or in a man-made object such as an old tin.
Cercotrichas coryphoeus (Karoo scrub-robin)  

Karoo scrub-robin nest with eggs, Springfontein, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from July-December, peaking around October.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-15 days, while the male regularly feeds her.
  • The chicks are fed by both adults and sometimes their helpers, leaving the nest after about 13-17 days. They typically remain in the nest bush for a 1 or 2 more days before taking off, becoming fully independent after about 4 more weeks, but sometimes remaining with the parents to help with next brood.


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.