Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Grey-winged Akalat (Sheppardia polioptera)


French: Rougegorge à sourcils blancs German: Grauflügelrötel Spanish: Akelat aligrís
Other common names: Grey-winged Robin-chat

Cossypha polioptera


, 1892,

Bukoba, Lake Victoria, Tanzania


Sometimes placed in Cossypha owing to behaviour, mimicry skills and egg coloration; placement in present genus based on plumage of juvenile, erectile supraocular tufts and unpatterned tail, supported by genetic data#R#R. Has alternatively been placed in Dryocichloides. Race grimwoodi (described from Mwinilunga district, N Zambia, not Zimbabwe as stated in HBW) recently revalidated#R. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. p. nigriceps (Reichenow, 1910) – Black-capped Akalat – E Sierra Leone, SE Guinea, N Liberia, W Ivory Coast, C & E Nigeria, Cameroon (Bamenda Highlands, Adamawa Plateau) and adjacent W Central African Republic.
  • S. p. tessmanni (Reichenow, 1921) – E Cameroon (upper R Kadei).
  • S. p. polioptera (Reichenow, 1892) – Grey-winged Akalat – S South Sudan, E DRCongo, W & S Uganda, W Kenya, NW Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.
  • S. p. grimwoodi (C. M. N. White, 1954) – NW & E Angola (N’dalatando to Calandula, Luacanao), extreme NW Zambia and SE DRCongo.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; 15–23 g. Nominate race has slaty-grey crown shading to olive-brown mantle, darker wings with olive-brown edges, more rufous rump and plain rufous-brown... read more


    Song, higher-pitched than Cossypha, a fast or slow series of variable phrases consisting... read more


    Lowland and submontane evergreen forest, especially riverine and gallery forest, forest patches in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including beetles (families Carabidae, Tenebrionidae), ants (Camponotidae), bugs (Pentatomidae, Lygaeidae), moths and caterpillars... read more


    Breeding-condition birds Jan and fledged young Mar in Liberia; breeding-condition birds Jun in Nigeria; nests in Sept–Oct in DRCongo... read more


    Sedentary; possibly a local migrant, Jul–Oct, in Sudan.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common, but generally rather scarce. Recorded from Gashaka-Gumti Reserve, in Nigeria, Bwindi-Impenetrable Forest National Park, in Uganda,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). Grey-winged Akalat (Sheppardia polioptera). 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 17 February 2020).