Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Cape Robin-chat (Dessonornis caffer)


French: Cossyphe du Cap German: Kaprötel Spanish: Cosifa cafre

Motacilla caffra


, 1771,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Proposed races vespera (E Zimbabwe), ardens (Transvaal) and drakensbergi (NE South Africa) synonymized with nominate. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. c. iolaemus (Reichenow, 1900) – S South Sudan and N Uganda S to Malawi and N Mozambique.
  • D. c. kivuensis (Schouteden, 1937) – SW Uganda, E DRCongo, W Rwanda and NW Tanzania (Ngara).
  • D. c. namaquensis (W. L. Sclater, 1911) – S Namibia and W & C South Africa (Northern Cape E to Free State).
  • D. c. caffer (Linnaeus, 1771) – E Zimbabwe and N, E & S South Africa (S to Western Cape), including Swaziland and Lesotho.
  • Descriptive notes

    16–17 cm; 25–34 g. Nominate race is olive-grey from crown to lower back, darker wings (with white post-carpal edge), chestnut rump and tail, latter with grey-... read more


    Song, by both sexes (female normally shorter muted versions), a series of melodious whistled... read more


    Edges of montane forest, typically bracken-briar and similar ecotonal vegetation adjacent to forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Wide variety of animal and vegetable food recorded, with opportunist use of local resource, e.g. caterpillars often taken when abundant in... read more


    Jan and Mar in Sudan; breeding-condition birds May and Jul in DRCongo; all year in E Africa, with peak in long rains and smaller peak in... read more


    Altitudinal migrant in dry winter season in many parts of range, especially S from Malawi, but... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common and widespread in appropriate habitat throughout range; particularly common in e.g. Nairobi suburbs, in Kenya. In South Africa, range has... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2019). Cape Robin-chat (Dessonornis caffer). 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 18 September 2019).