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Cercotrichas signata (Brown scrub-robin) 

[= Erythropygia signata

Bruinwipstert [Afrikaans]; Bruine waaierstaart [Dutch]; Agrobate brun [French]; Natalheckensänger [German]; Rouxinol-do-mato-castanho [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: Muscicapidae > Genus: Cercotrichas

Cercotrichas signata (Brown scrub-robin)   

Brown scrub-robin. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]


Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring from southern Mozambique through to Limpopo Province and South Africa's south-eastern coastline, from KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape. It is generally prefers the understorey of moist coastal and mistbelt forests, especially in dense vegetation along watercourses and drainage lines. It may also occupy dune forest and adjacent scrub, valley bushveld and forest dominated by Lebombo-ironwood (Andtostachys johnsonii).

Distribution of Brown scrub-robin 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, supplemented with fruit and seeds, doing most of its foraging on damp ground. Most of the time it flicks through leaf litter to expose food, but it may perform a strange act in which it taps the ground with one foot then the other, probably to try and flush insects from their hiding places. It may even follow mole-rats (Cryptomys) and Porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis), pouncing on the insects they disturb. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest an open cup built of fine twigs, dead leaves, rootlets and moss and lined with finer rootlets, fibres and animal hair. It is typically placed in a cavity in a tree trunk or on the top of a hollow stump, about 1-3 metres above ground.
  • Egg-laying season is from October-January, peaking during November.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14-15 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 14-16 days.


Not threatened, despite the fact that its range is so localised.


  • 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.