Family Crombecs and allies (Macrosphenidae)

Least Concern

Long-billed Crombec (Sylvietta rufescens)


French: Crombec à long bec German: Langschnabelsylvietta Spanish: Crombec piquilargo
Other common names: Cape Crombec

Dicaeum rufescens


, 1817,

Oliphants River, Western Cape, South Africa


Race ansorgei quite distinctive in having mainly white underparts with bright rufous flanks and a relatively short straight bill, while some of its vocalizations apparently differ from those of S. rufescens in Namibia and South Africa, being more similar to those of S. whytii#R#R; further study required. Birds from Namibia described as race ochrocara, usually considered indistinguishable from flecki. Nominate race intergrades with latter in S Botswana. Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. r. ansorgei E. J. O. Hartert, 1907 – coastal Angola (Bengo S to Namibe).
  • S. r. adelphe Grote, 1927 – SE DRCongo (from N end of L Tanganyika S to E Katanga), W Burundi (Ruzizi Plain), Zambia (except SW and valleys of R Zambezi and lower R Luangwa) and also N Malawi.
  • S. r. flecki Reichenow, 1900 – S Angola (W & S Huíla S to Cunene), Namibia (except S), SW Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe Plateau and N South Africa (Northern Province).
  • S. r. pallida Alexander, 1899 – SE Zambia (Luangwa and middle Zambezi Valleys), S Malawi, N & E Zimbabwe, Mozambique (S from Tete and Zambezi Valley) and NE South Africa (lowlands of E Northern Province S to N KwaZulu-Natal).
  • S. r. rufescens (Vieillot, 1817) – S Namibia, S & SW Botswana, and NW & N South Africa (Northern Cape, North West Province and NW Free State).
  • S. r. diverga Clancey, 1954 – C & S South Africa (SE Northern Cape and SW Free State S to Western Cape and Eastern Cape) and Lesotho.
  • S. r. resurga Clancey, 1953 – E South Africa (E Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal) and Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11 cm; 9–14 g. Greyish crombec with pale supercilium and tawny or cinnamon-tinged underparts. Nominate race brownish-grey above, with prominent buffy-white... read more


    Song is a loud, high-pitched, variable trilled phrase which is repeated several times, “chree... read more


    Drier savanna with thick bushes or scrubby undergrowth; secondary and light mixed woodland of many... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including mantids, beetles (Coleoptera) and caterpillars; also ticks (Acarina) and grass seeds. Usually alone or in pairs, but... read more


    Breeds in Jan in DRCongo, mainly Sept–Nov in Zambia, mainly Sept–Dec in Zimbabwe, Sept–Apr in Malawi and Mozambique, Sept... read more


    Mainly sedentary; moves locally at edges of range.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon and rather local in N of range but common in S. Densities of 1 bird/2·5 ha in mixed woodland and 1 bird/6 ha in Burkea in N... read more

    Recommended citation

    Pearson, D. (2018). Long-billed Crombec (Sylvietta rufescens). 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 10 December 2018).