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the web of life in southern Africa

Stenostira scita (Fairy flycatcher) 

FeevlieŽvanger [Afrikaans]; Elf-apalis [Dutch]; …rythrocerque de Livingstone [French]; Livingstones rotschwanzschnšpper [German]; Papa-moscas-d'asa-branca [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

Stenostira scita (Fairy flycatcher) 

Fairy flycatcher, Mountain Mist, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Stenostira scita (Fairy flycatcher)  Stenostira scita (Fairy flycatcher) 

Fairy flycatcher, Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Fairy flycatcher. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, with the bulk of its population scattered across South Africa, excluding the lowland coastal forests of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and extending marginally into southern Botswana and Namibia. During the breeding season it favours shrublands, such as Karoo, fynbos, thorny thickets, mountain scrub and sweet grassland. In winter it moves into more wooded habitats, including Acacia savanna, plantations and gardens.

Distribution of Fairy flycatcher 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 solely eats insects, often making short sallies from a perch to hawk prey aerially. It also joins mixed species foraging flocks, and it may glean insects from flowerheads. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The female solely builds the nest, which is a small cup with thick, compact sides, consisting of grass, dead leaves, bark shreds and bound with spider webs; it has a thick lining of wool, hair, feathers and plant down. The nest is camouflaged well in shrubby vegetation, sometimes placed as low as 20 cm above the ground.
Stenostira scita (Fairy flycatcher)

Fairy flycatcher sitting on its nest. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

  • Breeding season is mainly October to December.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 17-18 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.