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the web of life in southern Africa

Porzana flavirostra (Black crake)

Swartriethaan [Afrikaans]; umJekejeke, umJengejenge [Zulu]; Katukutuku (generic term for crake) [Kwangali]; Nhapata (generic name for coot, gallinule, moorhen, crake or rail) [Shona]; Hukunambu, Nkukumezane [Tsonga]; Zwart poseleinhoen [Dutch]; Rle bec jaune [French]; Mohrenralle, Negerralle [German]; Franga-d'gua-preta [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  

Porzana flavirostra (Black crake) Porzana flavirostra (Black crake)

Black crake. [photo Tony Faria ]

Black crake foraging. [photo Callie de Wet ]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa; within southern Africa it is common in northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers vegetation along the edge of wetlands, especially with rank grass, sedges, Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), reedbeds with Phragmites and alien Spanish reed (Arundo donax), swamp thickets and bushes.

Distribution of Black 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

Mainly sedentary, although it moves away from wetlands if they dry up, returning if they flood again; it also can make local movements in dry regions in response to rainfall.


Omnivorous, feeding on invertebrates, plant matter and small vertebrates, such as eggs, nestlings, fish and frogs. It does most of its foraging by walking along muddy shores, plucking prey from the air, water and from aquatic vegetation. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, cooperative solitary nester, establishing a territory by calling and chasing away intruders.
  • The nest (see image below) is a deep cup if dry grass, sedges, rushes and other water plants, typically concealed in vegetation just above water, sometimes with a canopy of reeds above it.
Porzana flavirostra (Black crake)  

Black crake clutch, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

  • Egg-laying season is from August-June, peaking from September-December in the Western Cape and from January-February elsewhere.
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes and sometimes helpers for about 13-19 days,
  • Each breeding pair rears two broods per breeding season, with the first chicks learning to fly at about 35 days old, after which they help their parents to raise another brood before becoming fully independent.


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.