Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Near Threatened

East Coast Akalat (Sheppardia gunningi)


French: Rougegorge de Gunning German: Blauflügelrötel Spanish: Akelat de Gunning

Sheppardia gunningi


, 1909,

Mzimbiti, near Beira, Mozambique


Race bensoni differs sufficiently strongly in plumage, size and voice from nominate and sokokensis to be treated as a full species, but split obstructed by race alticola, which shares larger size and almost entirely rufous belly with bensoni (but not its white loral stripe); unfortunately, alticola is unknown vocally (this urgently needs attention), but it is distinctive in its own right, occurring at much higher elevations (1140–1750 m) than the three other taxa (nominate and sokokensis mainly below 300 m, bensoni mainly below 610 m); possibly therefore bensoni is one species and alticola another, or they combine to represent a single species. Newly discovered population on Mt Mabu, Mozambique, close to bensoni or perhaps an undescribed subspecies#R. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. g. sokokensis (van Someren, 1921) – East Coast Akalat – coastal SE Kenya (lower R Tana S from Makeri), NE Tanzania (E Usambaras area), and Zanzibar.
  • S. g. alticola Fjeldså et al., 2000 – Montane Akalat – Nguu Mts, in E Tanzania.
  • S. g. bensoni Kinnear, 1938 – Benson's Akalat – W of L Malawi from Mt Choma S to Kulwilwe and Chikangawa, NC Malawi. Probably this race recently discovered in Mt Mabu#R and Mt Inago#R (N Mozambique).
  • S. g. gunningi Haagner, 1909 – Gunning's Akalat – coastal Cherigoma Plateau between R Zambezi and Beira, C Mozambique.
  • Descriptive notes

    11–12 cm; 16–19 g. Nominate race is bronze-brown above, wings brown with greyish outer webs of primaries, tail greyish-brown, lores and supercilium bluish-grey,... read more


    Song a series of fast phrases 2 seconds long, typical phrase “tuyutwiyu-tutuyutwiyu-tutuyutwiyu-... read more


    Dry lowland and mid-elevation moist evergreen forest, preferring moist valley bottoms with... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds, berries and invertebrates: ants, termites, beetles, bugs, moths, caterpillars, cockroaches, crickets and other orthopterans, and... read more


    Nov–Jan; also juvenile Apr in Kenya. Of three nests observed at nestling stage, two provisioned by pairs and one by a trio (probably... read more


    Most populations probably sedentary; some altitudinal movement suspected on Mt Choma, in Malawi,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened, and previously, Vulnerable. Global population placed at over 10,000 mature individuals, but considered... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). East Coast Akalat (Sheppardia gunningi). 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 25 February 2020).