Family Finfoots (Heliornithidae)

Least Concern

African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis)


French: Grébifoulque d’Afrique German: Binsenralle Spanish: Avesol africano

Heliornis senegalensis


, 1817,



Shows clinal increase in size towards S and E of range. Race camerunensis may apparently intermix with nominate in S Cameroon, and is often treated as a synonym of latter; further, marked individual variation in plumage is evident, and races have sometimes been regarded as no more than morphs. Birds from extreme NW Angola (Loango coast) formerly awarded separate race albipectus, being intermediate in size and range, but not reliably separable from petersii. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. s. senegalensis (Vieillot, 1817) – Senegal E mainly through forested belt of W Africa to E DRCongo, Uganda, NW Tanzania and Ethiopia.
  • P. s. somereni Chapin, 1954 – Kenya and NE Tanzania.
  • P. s. camerunensis Sjöstedt, 1893 – S Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and N DRCongo.
  • P. s. petersii Hartlaub, 1852 – Angola E to SE DRCongo, Zambia, SW Tanzania and Mozambique, and S to E South Africa; also in E Caprivi Strip (NE Namibia, N Botswana).
  • Descriptive notes

    35–59 cm; 338–879 g. Rectrices stiffened markedly; small bony knob on carpal joint; first digit carries sharp claw; legs and feet bright salmon-red to orange.... read more


    Generally rather silent, but song (either given quietly or rather loud) is likened to a roaring... read more


    Permanent streams, rivers, pools and lakes, with well-vegetated banks, particularly with reeds and... read more

    Food and feeding

    A variety of invertebrates, particularly larvae and adults of mayflies, dragonflies, beetles, grasshoppers; spiders, millipedes;... read more


    Season varies with location, corresponding with high water levels; Sept in Sierra Leone; chicks in Nov–Dec in Liberia, in Oct in... read more


    Resident, but colonizes new locations regularly; in South Africa, and probably elsewhere, some... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread, but never at high densities; usually considered to be scarce because is so elusive and so rarely observed. Not uncommon... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bertram, B.C.R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 December 2018).