Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Black-headed Apalis (Apalis melanocephala)


French: Apalis à tête noire German: Schwarzkopf-Feinsänger Spanish: Apalis cabecinegro

Burnesia melanocephala

G. A. Fischer and Reichenow

, 1884,

Pangani, north-east Tanzania


Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. m. nigrodorsalis Granvik, 1923 – C Kenyan highlands.
  • A. m. melanocephala (G. A. Fischer & Reichenow, 1884) – S Somalia, coastal Kenya and NE Tanzania (including E Usambara Mts).
  • A. m. moschi van Someren, 1931 – SE Kenya (Taita Hills) and Tanzanian highlands (S to Udzungwa Mts).
  • A. m. muhuluensis C. H. B. Grant & Mackworth-Praed, 1947 – SE Tanzania.
  • A. m. tenebricosa Vincent, 1933 – N Mozambique (Njesi Plateau, Mt Namuli and Mt Chiperone).
  • A. m. adjacens Clancey, 1969 – E Malawi highlands (except Mulanje and Thyolo).
  • A. m. fuliginosa Vincent, 1933 – Mt Mulanje and Mt Thyolo, in SE Malawi.
  • A. m. lightoni Roberts, 1938 – C Mozambique and adjacent E Zimbabwe.
  • A. m. addenda Clancey, 1968 – S Mozambique (S of R Save, including Bazaruto I).
  • Descriptive notes

    12–14 cm; 8–10 g. A forest apalis, dark above and pale below, with long and graduated tail. Male nominate race has blackish head, upperparts and upperwing, washed... read more


    Male song (coastal populations) a series of simple “sweep” or “wheet wee wee wee…” calls, or (... read more


    Wide range of forest habitats, including lowland and montane forest, riverine forest, coastal scrub... read more

    Food and feeding

    Eats insects, including grasshopper nymphs (Orthoptera), caterpillars (Lepidoptera) and small flies (Diptera); occasionally seeds. Occurs... read more


    Breeds Apr–Jul in E Africa, Oct–Nov in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Probably monogamous; solitary, territorial (probably throughout... read more


    Presumably mostly resident; some evidence of movement to lower elevations on Mt Mulanje (S Malawi)... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common. Densities of up to 1 pair/ha in S Malawi and 0·9 birds/ha (0·3 pairs/ha) in Tanzania (Udzungwa). Tolerates some habitat disturbance;... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2019). Black-headed Apalis (Apalis melanocephala). 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 17 September 2019).