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Sphenoeacus afer (Cape grassbird) 

Grasvoël [Afrikaans]; Itshitshi, Udwetya [Xhosa]; Kaapse grasvogel [Dutch]; Sphénoèque du Cap [French]; Kap-grassänger [German]; Felosa 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: Sylviidae

Sphenoeacus afer (Cape grassbird)  Sphenoeacus afer (Cape grassbird) 

Cape grassbird, Kleinmond, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Cape grassbird, Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, with the bulk of its population in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Swaziland and Lempopo Province; it also occurs in Zimbabwe’s eastern highlands. It generally prefers habitats with restios, rank grasses or ferns, such as fynbos and grassland. It also occupies montane forest edges with Bracken (Pteridium aqualinum) and Brier (Smilax anceps).

Distribution of Cape grassbird 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.  


It mainly eats insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars, doing most of its foraging on the ground beneath vegetation.


  • The female builds the nest, which is a bowl built of twigs, grass blades, leaves, lined with finer plant material. It is typically concealed near the ground in a tussock of grass or Restio, or just in some tangled vegetation.
  • Egg-laying season is from about July-December in the Western Cape, elsewhere it is from roughly October-April, peaking from October-December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for approximately 14-18 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both adults, leaving the nest after about 14-16 days.


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.