Family Woodhoopoes (Phoeniculidae)

Least Concern

Common Scimitarbill (Rhinopomastus cyanomelas)


French: Irrisor namaquois German: Sichelhopf Spanish: Abubilla arbórea cimitarra
Other common names: Scimitarbill

Falcinellus cyanomelas


, 1819,

Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa


Closely related to R. aterrimus, and sometimes considered conspecific (see R. aterrimus). Race anchietae of that species may be better placed with R. cyanomelas#R. Birds from Zimbabwe, S Mozambique and NE South Africa (Limpopo to KwaZulu-Natal), described as intermedius, now regarded as inseparable from schalowi. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. c. schalowi Neumann, 1900 – S Uganda, W & C Kenya and S Somalia S to Zambia and NE South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal).
  • R. c. cyanomelas (Vieillot, 1819) – Angola, Namibia, Botswana and N South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    26–30 cm; 24–38·8 g. Nominate male dark, iridescent, with crown and face deep blue, nape, mantle and rump violet; white bar across primaries, some primary-... read more


    Song (given by male alone) is a mournful, high-pitched, ventriloquial, 3–5-note "poui-... read more


    Dry thornbush country, palms, wooded savanna, occasionally thicker woodland, including  miombo... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet consists mostly of insects, including ants (Crematogaster) and their larvae from ant-galls, as well as flies, caterpillars,... read more


    Recorded Aug–Feb: in Zimbabwe most records Sept–Oct (range Aug–Dec); Aug–Oct in Zambia, Sept–Oct in Malawi... read more


    Movements of individuals unknown, but species is probably less sedentary than Phoeniculus... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). No population estimates available; widespread and sometimes locally common; fairly common resident in open woodland, savanna and bush... read more

    Recommended citation

    Ligon, D. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Common Scimitarbill (Rhinopomastus cyanomelas). 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 June 2019).