Family Waxbills (Estrildidae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Nigrita (Nigrita canicapillus)


French: Nigrette à calotte grise German: Graunackenschwärzling Spanish: Negrita canosa
Other common names: Grey-headed Negrofinch

Æthiops canicapillus


, 1841,



Races emiliae and candidus suggested in HBW as possibly representing two separate species: emiliae most notably possesses greatly reduced wing spots (2), but otherwise appears to show only two minor differences, a smaller size (allow 1) and reduced (but not absent, contra HBW) white on forehead to nape side (1), with song not much differentiated#R, while candidus has strong white crown to nape and slightly whiter rump (3) but otherwise shows only slightly reduced wing spots (1); thus vocal evidence desirable. Nominate race intergrades with schistaceus in NE DRCongo. Proposed race sparsimguttatus, described from extreme NW Tanzania (Bukoba, on W L Victoria), treated as synonym of schistaceus. Six subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. c. emiliae Sharpe, 1869 – Western Nigrita – Guinea and Sierra Leone E to Togo.
  • N. c. canicapillus (Strickland, 1841) – Grey-headed Nigrita – S Benin, S Nigeria and W & S Cameroon S, including Bioko, to Gabon and Congo, E to N & C DRCongo.
  • N. c. schistaceus Sharpe, 1891 – extreme S South Sudan, E DRCongo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, W Kenya and NW Tanzania.
  • N. c. angolensis Bannerman, 1921 – NW Angola and S DRCongo.
  • N. c. diabolicus (Reichenow & Neumann, 1895) – montane C Kenya S to N Tanzania (Crater Highlands, Mt Kilimanjaro).
  • N. c. candidus Moreau, 1942 – Kungwe Nigrita – Mt Kungwe, in W Tanzania.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14 cm; 17–21 g. Nominate race has forehead and side of head black, bordered white above, crown to back grey, rump and uppertail-coverts pale grey, tail black;... read more


    Clear plaintive 3-note whistle, "hooeee, hooo­eeee, hoo", sometimes introduced with a... read more


    Forest edge, clearings, roads and streams in primary guinean forest, gallery forest, also palm,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small insects, including ants (Formicidae), termites (Isoptera) and insect larvae; also fruits, seeds, occasionally nectar. Nestlings fed... read more


    Nest-building in Feb, Mar and Jul–Oct in Liberia; season mainly Sept–Mar in Ivory Coast, and Dec–Feb in Ghana; nest-... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common and widespread in most of range. Densities of 5–9 pairs/km2 in secondary forest and 3–5 pairs/km2 in primary forest in Liberia; 5... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Grey-headed Nigrita (Nigrita canicapillus). 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).