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Cossypha caffra (Cape robin-chat, Cape robin) 

Gewone janfrederik [Afrikaans]; Ugaga [Xhosa]; uGaga, umBhekle [Zulu]; Sethoenamoru, Sethoena-moru, Setholo-moru [South Sotho]; Kaapse lawaaimaker [Dutch]; Cossyphe du Cap [French]; Kaprötel [German]; Cossifa do Cabo [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: Cossypha

Cossypha caffra (Cape robin-chat, Cape robin)
Cape robin-chat, Karoo Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Cape robin-chat, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches from southern Sudan to Kenya, eastern DRC and Tanzania, with the largest population in southern Africa. Here it is common across South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, southern Mozambique and southern Namibia, with an isolated population in Zimbabwe's eastern Highlands. It occupies a variety of habitat types, generally preferring areas with quite dense undergrowth and scattered trees, bushes, rocks or other structures to use for perching, along with surface water for drinking and bathing. It is a common bird in gardens across much of its distribution, including in city centres such as in Cape Town.

Distribution of Cape robin-chat 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 Red-chested cuckoo.


It mainly eats insects and other invertebrates, supplemented with fruit and seeds plucked from bushes, trees or the ground. It does a lot of its foraging in leaf litter, flicking through plant debris in search of food and occasionally aerially hawking an insect; it may also glean invertebrates from leaves, branches and rocks. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Animals
  • Berries, drupes and seeds
    • indigenous plants
      • Apodytes dimidiata (White-pear)
      • Asparagus falcatus (asparagus)
      • Cassipourea gummiflua (Large-leaved onionwood)
      • Celtis africana (White-stinkwood)
      • Ficus sur (Broom-cluster fig)
      • Halleria lucida (Tree-fuchsia)
      • Ilex mitis (African holly)
      • Kiggelaria africana (Wild-peach)
      • Lycium (honey-thorns)
      • Gymnosporia harveyana (Black forest spikethorn)
      • Phoenix reclinata (Wild date palm)
      • Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus (Candlewood)
      • Rhamnus prinoides (Shiny-leaf)
      • Rhus nebulosa (Coastal currant)
      • Rhus pyroides (Common currant)
      • Scutia myrtina (Cat-thorn)
      • Coddia rudis (Small bone-apple)
      • Xymalos monospora (Lemonwood)
    • alien plants
      • Acacia cyclops (Rooikrans)
      • Atriplex semibaccata (Creeping saltbrush)
      • Hedychium flavescens (Ginger lily)
      • Lantana camara (Cherry-pie)
      • Morus alba (Mulberry)
      • Myoporum laetum (New Zealand manatoka)
      • Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry)
      • Psidium guajava (Guava)
      • Rubus (blackberry)
      • Solanum mauritanum (Bugweed)
  • Miscellaneous
    • cheese
    • butter
    • leftovers from dogs' bowls


  • Monogamous, highly territorial solitary nester, as the male aggressively defends his territory against other males as well as other species, such as white-eyes, sunbirds and doves.
  • The nest is usually built solely by the female in about 1-14 days, gathering a clump of material together before shuffling its body into it to form a cup. It is usually made out of bark fragments, twigs, dry grass, fern fronds, rootlets, dead leaves, moss and seed pods and lined with finer fibres, such as hair, rootlets and plant inflorescences. It is most commonly placed in a hollow in an earthen bank, cavity in a tree trunk, densely foliaged shrub, dry flood debris along a stream bank, or in pots or boxes overgrown with vegetation. It has even been recorded to placed the nest in a dried flower arrangement in the lounge of the Grahamstown Golf Club!
Cossypha caffra (Cape robin-chat, Cape robin)  Cossypha caffra (Cape robin-chat, Cape robin)

Cape robin-chat chick in nest, West Coast Fossil Park, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Cape robin-chat nest with eggs, Machadodorp, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from about June-January, peaking around October-November.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14-19 days.
  • The female broods the chicks throughout the night and intermittently through the day, for the first 5-11 days of their lives. They are fed by both parents, eventually leaving the nest at about 14-18 days old, remaining dependent on their parents for about 5-7 weeks more. During this period the adults are particularly viglant about protecting their young, sometimes attacking snake such as boomslangs (Dispholidus typus) and Cape cobras (Naja nivea).


Not threatened, in fact it has adapted to well to the introduction of man-made habitats.


  • 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.