Family Crombecs and allies (Macrosphenidae)

Least Concern

Cape Grassbird (Sphenoeacus afer)


French: Sphénoèque du Cap German: Kap-Bülbülgrasmücke Spanish: Yerbera de El Cabo
Other common names: Cape Grass-warbler

Muscicapa afra

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. excisus Clancey, 1973 – E Zimbabwe highlands and adjacent Mozambique.
  • S. a. natalensis Shelley, 1882 – NE South Africa (Limpopo and E North West Province S to N & E Free State and KwaZulu-Natal), W Swaziland and N Lesotho.
  • S. a. intermedius Shelley, 1882 – E South Africa (extreme S KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape S to former Transkei); probably also S Lesotho.
  • S. a. afer (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Western Cape and SW Eastern Cape (E to about R Gamtoos), in SW & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–23 cm; 27–34 g. A large warbler with streaked back, warmly coloured head and wings, and long, ragged-looking well-graduated tail with pointed feathers.... read more


    Song a short jumbled medley of musical notes, usually beginning quietly and increasing in volume... read more


    Rank vegetation with long grasses, restios or ferns; montane grassland with scattered proteas (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects, especially caterpillars and other larvae; also grass seeds. Feeds on ground under vegetation.


    Breeds mainly during rains: Oct–Feb in Zimbabwe; in South Africa Sept–Mar in Northern Province, Oct–Feb in KwaZulu-Natal... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. In South Africa, common in Western Cape and locally common in Northern Province, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. Densities of up to 1 bird/ha in W part... read more

    Recommended citation

    Pearson, D. (2019). Cape Grassbird (Sphenoeacus afer). 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 February 2019).