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Cossypha natalensis (Red-capped robin-chat, Natal robin) 

Nataljanfrederik [Afrikaans]; Nyarhututu [Tsonga]; Roodkap-lawaaimaker [Dutch]; Cossyphe à calotte rousse [French]; Natalrötel [German]; Cossifa do Natal [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: Cossypha

Cossypha natalensis (Red-capped robin-chat, Natal robin) 

Red-capped robin-chat, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Cossypha natalensis (Red-capped robin-chat, Natal robin)  Cossypha natalensis (Red-capped robin-chat, Natal robin)

Red-capped robin-chat, Ithala Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Red-capped robin-chat, Zululand, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Distribution and habitat

Although it has scattered populations above the equator, the bulk of its population occurs from southern DRC and Tanzania south through Angola, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa. Here it is fairly common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern and south-eastern Zimbabwe, Mozambique and eastern South Africa, from Limpopo Province through Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal to East London, in the Eastern Cape. It generally prefers evergreen forest along watercourses, riparian thickets in bushveld, dune forest, well-wooded suburban gardens and banana plantations. It may also occupy miombo (Brachystegia) woodland and hillside drainage lines in river valley bushveld.

Distribution of Red-capped robin-chat 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.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Red-chested cuckoo.

Movements and migrations

Complex and not well known, as it is though to be resident in some areas (such as the KwaZulu-Natal coast) and migratory in others.


It eats mainly eats insects, supplemented with fruit taken from the tree canopy. It does most of its foraging on the ground, whisking through leaf litter in search of prey, occasionally hawking insects on tree trunks or in the air. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Fruit
    • asparagus
      • Asparagus densiflorus
      • Asparagus falcatus
      • Asparagus plumosus
    • Scadoxus
      • Scadoxus membranaceus
      • Scadoxus puniceus
    • Haemanthus albilflos (Snake lily)
    • Dracaena aletriformis (Large-leaved dragon-tree)
    • Strelitzia nicolai (Coastal strelitzia)
    • Trema oriontalis (Pigeonwood)
    • Ficus natalanensis (Coastal strangler fig)
    • Erythroxylum delagoense (Small-leaved coca-tree)
    • Antidesma venosum (Tassel-berry)
    • Bridelia micrantha (Mitzeerie)
    • Maytenus peduncularis (Cape-blackwood)
    • Scutia myrtina (Cat-thorn)
    • Halleria lucida (Tree-fuchsia)
    • Canthium inerme (Turkey-berry)


  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes, consisting of an open cup set into a platform, the composition of which varies but generally including at least some of these materials: dead leaves, roots, tendrils, twigs, dry grass and flowerheads, lichen, moss, bark fragments and even Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) dung. It is typically placed in either a hollow tree stump or in a rotten hole or crevice in a branch, occasionally in a recess in a dry gully bank.
Cossypha natalensis (Red-capped robin-chat, Natal robin)   

Red-capped robin-chat chicks in nest, Ithala Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking during November.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14-15 days.
  • The chicks are brooded intermittently by the female for the first week or so of their lives, and are fed by both parents. They eventually the nest at about 11-12 days (exceptionally 17 days), remaining dependent on their parents for around 6 weeks more.


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. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.