Family Grasshopper-warblers and Grassbirds (Locustellidae)

Least Concern

Fan-tailed Grassbird (Schoenicola brevirostris)


French: Mégalure à bec court German: Fächerschwanzsänger Spanish: Yerbera de abanico

Bradypterus brevirostris


, 1850,

upper Umlazi River, Natal, South Africa


See S. platyurus. Race alexinae intergrades with nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. b. alexinae (Heuglin, 1863) – Sierra Leone (Tingi Mts) and adjacent parts of Guinea; extreme SE Nigeria and Cameroon; S Gabon and Congo E to E DRCongo, S to C & SW Angola, N & C Zambia and N & W Malawi; and South Sudan, W highlands of Ethiopia, and Rift Valley mountains in W & C Uganda, W & S Kenya and W & N Tanzania.
  • S. b. brevirostris (Sundevall, 1850) – Malawi (except N & W) and NW Mozambique S to E South Africa (S to Eastern Cape), Swaziland and Lesotho; migratory S of R Zambezi#R, but probably resident at low altitudes#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    16–17 cm; 14–17 g. Distinctive grassbird with disproportionately small head and bill enhanced by flat crown, and relatively massive rear body and strongly... read more


    Song, from perch on large head of grass or in distinctive song flight, a weak but surprisingly far-... read more


    Damp upland grassland near streams, rivers or lakes, particularly with tall rank grasses; also... read more

    Food and feeding

    Poorly studied. Feeds on small invertebrates; small beetles (Coleoptera), grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and hairless caterpillars documented.... read more


    Birds in breeding condition in Jul in Sierra Leone, Jul and Aug in W Kenya, Mar–Oct in E DRCongo, Jan and Feb in Zambia, Dec–... read more


    Resident over most of range, but skulking nature outside breeding season makes true assessment... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common, but rather local. At N limits of extensive range, distribution is fragmented and a number of populations poorly known; some of these (... read more

    Recommended citation

    Madge, S. (2019). Fan-tailed Grassbird (Schoenicola brevirostris). 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 19 April 2019).