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the web of life in southern Africa

Sarothrura rufa (Red-chested flufftail)

Rooiborsvleikuiken [Afrikaans]; Roodborstral [Dutch]; Rle camail [French]; Rotbrust-zwergralle [German]; Frango-d'gua-de-peito-vermelho [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

Sarothrura rufa (Red-chested flufftail)


Red-chested flufftail, Grabouw, South Africa. [photo Andre du Toit ]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches of sub-Saharan Africa, from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and eastern and south-western South Africa. It generally prefers marshy, freshwater habitats with permanently dense cover, such as swamps, wet grassland, vleis, marshes, streams, lakes, ponds, dams and rivers with dense riparian vegetation.

Distribution of Red-chested flufftail 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 Clem Hagner, [ Transvaal Museum]


Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Adults are largely resident, making local movements in the non-breeding season, while juveniles disperse from their parents' territories after becoming independent.


Mainly eats insects and other invertebrates, doing most of its foraging on the ground, probing the mud and vegetation in search of prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester with a life-long pair bond, although males may force copulation with other females in the breeding season.

  • The nest is built solely by the female, consisting of a cup of grass or dead plants, sometimes with a partial canopy or dome made of live stems. It is typically placed in clump of grasses such as wild rice (Oryza perennis) and Bedding grass (Pennisetum macrourum), often waterlogged at the edge of marshy areas.

  • Egg-laying season is from September-May.

  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 14-18 days, with the male taking the day shift while the female incubates at night.

  • The chicks leave the nest within 2-3 days of hatching, brooded regularly under the wings the female, with both parents feeding them on insects and other invertebrates. They typically become independent at about 3-4 weeks old, taking their first flight 2-3 weeks later, although they may solicit food from the parents for some time after this.


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.