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the web of life in southern Africa

Crecopsis egregia (African crake) 

[= Crex egregia

Afrikaanse riethaan [Afrikaans]; Katukutuku (generic term for crake) [Kwangali]; Nhapata (generic name for coot, gallinule, moorhen, crake or rail) [Shona]; Râle des prés [French]; Steppenralle [German]; Codornizão-africano [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: Gruiformes > Family: Rallidae

Crecopsis egregia (African crake)   

African crake, Nylsvley, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is locally common in Zimbabwe, northern and eastern Botswana, north-eastern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), north-eastern South Africa and central and southern Mozambique. It generally prefers dry grassland in savanna, also moving into rice, sugar cane, maize and cotton fields, abandoned agricultural land and airfields.

Distribution of African crake 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.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, breeding in southern Africa from October-April before heading north to its non-breeding grounds in equatorial Africa, mainly travelling at night.


Mainly eats insects, earthworms, small frogs, plant matter and fish, doing most of its foraging beneath vegetation or along roads, turning over leaf litter and dead grass and probing the soil and grass tufts in search of prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous solitary nester, vigorously defending its territory by attacking intruders with its beak and regularly calling and displaying.
  • The nest (see image below) is a saucer-shaped pad of dry grass, typically placed in a grass or sedge tuft, especially if it is on wet ground.
Crecopsis egregia (African crake)  

African crake at its nest, Nylsvley area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from October-March, peaking from January-February.
  • It lays 2-8, usually 5-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for approximately 14-24 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and cared for by either one or both parents.


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.