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Scleroptila africanus (Grey-winged francolin) 

[= Francolinus africanus

Bergpatrys [Afrikaans]; Isakhwatsha [Xhosa]; iNtendele (generic term for francolin) [Zulu]; Khoale (generic term for francolins and spurfowls) [South Sotho]; Grijsvleugel-frankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin à ailes grises [French]; Grauflügelfrankolin [German]; Francolim-d'asa-cinzenta [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: Galliformes > Family: Phasianidae

Scleroptila africanus (Grey-winged francolin) 

Grey-winged francolin. [photo Francois Dreyer ©]

Grey-winged francolins, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]


The 'grassland francolins' (genus Scleroptila), which include the Orange River, Grey-winged, Red-winged and Shelley's francolins, are quite similar to one another, but within this complex the Grey-winged francolin can be distinguished by having a grey freckled rather than white or buff throat. In flight, there is proportionally more grey than red on the wings compared to the other species. 

The plumage of male and female is the same but the male can be distinguished by its long, sharp leg spurs.

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to South Africa and Lesotho (also a single record from Swaziland). Found in montane grasslands in the Drakensberg region (mainly above 1800 m elevation) and also occurs in karoo scrub, renosterbos and strandveld in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. Adults tend to be very sedentary in habit, but young birds move around locally. 

Distribution of Grey-winged francolin 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.  



Recorded by S. Wolf, Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve 1972, [© Transvaal Museum]


Predators and parasites

  • Predators
    • of adults
    • of eggs
      • Cynictis penicillata (Yellow mongoose)
      • crows (Corvidae)
      • Dasypeltis scabra (Common egg-eater)
  • Parasites
    • tapeworms
      • Ascometra
      • Raillietina
      • Hispaniolepis
    • Subulura (nematodes)
    • blood parasites
      • Aegyptianella
      • Hepatozoon
      • Leucocytozoon macleani
      • Leucocytozoon peaolopesi
      • Plasmodium juxtanucleare
      • Trypanosoma avium
      • microfilariae


Eats mainly invertebrates in the summer months when chicks are being reared. In non-breeding season feeds mainly on small geophytes such as species of Mariscus, Hesperantha and Moraea. 


  • Breeding season
    • Western Cape: July to December (peaking August to October)
    • Elsewhere: August to March (peaking November to December)
  • Lays 4-8 eggs although up to 15 eggs have been recorded, suggesting laying by two females. 
  • After all the eggs have been laid, they are incubated by the female for 21-23 days.
  • Chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and accompany their parents through the breeding season. They can take short flights after 14-21 days. 


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Sinclair, I, Hockey, P. and Tarboton, W. 2002. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa. 3rd edition. Struik, Cape Town.

Text by Hamish Robertson