Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Red-capped Robin-chat (Cossypha natalensis)


French: Cossyphe à calotte rousse German: Natalrötel Spanish: Cosifa de Natal
Other common names: Rufous-capped Robin-chat

Cossypha natalensis

A. Smith

, 1840,

neighbourhood of Port Natal [= Durban], South Africa


Several records of hybridization with C. dichroa in E South Africa and incidence of this is probably more widespread than previously suspected#R; hybrids described as C. haagneri. Additional races have been described (garguensis, tennenti, seclusa and clanceyi very rarely recognized, hylophona in highlands of SW Tanzania to W Mozambique occasionally so)#R, but unequivocal diagnosis of any of these generally problematic, and further complicated by imperfectly understood migratory regimes. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. n. larischi Meise, 1958 – C Nigeria S to N & W Angola.
  • C. n. intensa Mearns, 1913 – SE Central African Republic, S South Sudan, SW Ethiopia and S Somalia S to E Angola and NE South Africa.
  • C. n. natalensis A. Smith, 1840 – E South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal S to Eastern Cape).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–17 cm; 24–40 g. Distinctive, having orange-rufous face with beady black eye. Nominate race has crown to nape olive-rufous, back and scapulars dark blue-grey,... read more


    Song during breeding a rich medley of original notes, very human whistling and mimicry of other... read more


    Closed lowland and middle-elevation evergreen forest, open deciduous forests in thornbush, dune... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates and fruit. Of 33 stomachs and 14 faecal samples from across range, 79% held beetles (including Curculionidae, Elateridae and... read more


    Wet-season breeder throughout range: Jun in Nigeria, Aug in Sudan and Jul in coastal Kenya and Somalia; Oct–Jan in DRCongo, Apr... read more


    Partial migrant, patterns very poorly understood. Disappears from S Ethiopia and S Sudan in Jun... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Status in N parts of range in some doubt, as uncertainty over significance of many records (whether referable to residents, passage migrants, or... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). Red-capped Robin-chat (Cossypha natalensis). 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 28 February 2020).