Family Cisticolas and allies (Cisticolidae)

Least Concern

Bleating Camaroptera (Camaroptera brachyura)


French: Camaroptère à tête grise German: Grünmantel-Bogenflügel Spanish: Camaróptera baladora

Sylvia brachyura


, 1820,

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa


Often treated as conspecific with C. harterti (which see). Races form two complexes, the green-backed “brachyura group” (pileata, fugglescouchmani, bororensis, constans and nominate) and the grey-backed “brevicaudata group” (remaining races). These are often treated as two separate species, but the groups share similar calls and displays (songs show only minor differences#R), hybridize locally in Mozambique and Malawi, and do not show significant genetic differences, and thus are probably better treated as representing a single species; moreover, bororensis intergrades with sharpei in Malawi, and fugglescouchmani with intercalata in NE Zambia; however, members of both forms occur together in NE Tanzania and NE South Africa, where they are segregated locally by habitat choice. Birds described as race “congica” proved to be aberrant juveniles of Calamonastes undosus cinereus. Sixteen subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. b. brevicaudata (Cretzschmar, 1830) – Grey-backed Camaroptera – savannas from extreme S Mauritania and Senegal E to S Sudan, W Eritrea and NW Ethiopia.
  • C. b. tincta (Cassin, 1855) – forest and woodland from Liberia E to W Kenya, S to NW Angola.
  • C. b. abessinica Zedlitz, 1911 – South Sudan, NE DRCongo, Ethiopia (except NW), Djibouti, NW Somalia, N Uganda and N Kenya.
  • C. b. insulata Desfayes, 1975 – forested areas in Ghere region, W Ethiopia.
  • C. b. aschani Granvik, 1934 – E DRCongo (Kivu), SW Uganda and Kenyan highlands.
  • C. b. erlangeri Reichenow, 1905 – S Somalia, E Kenya and NE Tanzania.
  • C. b. griseigula Sharpe, 1892 – SE Uganda, W Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • C. b. intercalata C. M. N. White, 1960 – N & NE Angola, S DRCongo, N Zambia and W Tanzania.
  • C. b. sharpei Zedlitz, 1911 – S Angola, N Namibia, N & E Botswana, S Zambia, arid parts of W Malawi and N South Africa (North West Province).
  • C. b. transitiva Clancey, 1974 – Zimbabwe, SE Botswana and NE South Africa.
  • C. b. beirensis Roberts, 1932 – Mozambique N of R Save, adjacent Zimbabwe, and S to NE South Africa (NE KwaZulu-Natal).
  • C. b. pileata Reichenow, 1891 – SE Kenya and coastal Tanzania (inland to E Usambaras), including Zanzibar and Mafia I.
  • C. b. fugglescouchmani Moreau, 1939 – NE Zambia, N Malawi and E Tanzania.
  • C. b. bororensis Gunning & Roberts, 1911 – SW Tanzania, N Mozambique and S Malawi.
  • C. b. constans Clancey, 1952 – SE Zimbabwe, S Mozambique, lowveld of South Africa and Swaziland.
  • C. b. brachyura (Vieillot, 1820) – Green-backed Camaroptera – coastal E & S South Africa (from C KwaZulu-Natal S to George).
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11 cm; male 9–13 g, female 7–12 g. A small warbler with short tail, plain brownish-grey and olive upperparts and whitish underparts; some races have... read more


    Male song, given all year, a loud, penetrating “kwit-kwit-kwit-kwit…”, like... read more


    Forest understorey, often in clearings or at forest edge, gallery forest, desert oases, thickets... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly small insects and other invertebrates, including caterpillars (Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), ants (Hymenoptera), flies (... read more


    Breeds Jun–Nov in Senegal to Liberia, Apr–Sept and Nov–Jan in Nigeria, Oct–Apr in Cameroon, Oct–Mar (dry... read more


    Mainly resident; some local dispersal. Of 146 ringed individuals recovered in S ­Africa, three... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant in many areas. Occurs at densities of 4 pairs/ha in coffee plantations and secondary growth in Liberia, 3–4 birds/ha in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ryan, P. (2019). Bleating Camaroptera (Camaroptera brachyura). 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 26 August 2019).