Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Southern Black-flycatcher (Melaenornis pammelaina)


French: Gobemouche sud-africain German: Glanzdrongoschnäpper Spanish: Papamoscas sudafricano

Sylvia pammelaina


, 1814,



Geographical variation clinal, and races poorly defined; ater sometimes synonymized with nominate and poliogynus with diabolicus. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. p. tropicalis (Cabanis, 1884) – SE Congo, SW & SE DRCongo, SW Uganda (Lake Mburo National Park#R), Kenya, S Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and W Tanzania.
  • M. p. poliogynus Lawson, 1964 – Angola (except S) E (possibly including S DRCongo) to SW Tanzania and NW Malawi and S to extreme NE Namibia (Caprivi Strip), Zambia and N, W & C Zimbabwe.
  • M. p. diabolicus (Sharpe, 1877) – S Angola, N Namibia (except Caprivi Strip) and NW Botswana.
  • M. p. pammelaina (Stanley, 1814) – S & E Tanzania, SE Malawi and N Mozambique (N of Sul do Save).
  • M. p. ater (Sundevall, 1850) – SW Malawi, lowland S & E Zimbabwe, Mozambique (S of R Save), SE Botswana, E South Africa (S to Eastern Cape) and Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–22 cm; 21–33 g. Male nominate race is entirely black, with steel-blue gloss on head, body and exposed parts of tertials and rectrices; primaries and... read more


    Usually silent. Song a bold, pleasant, melodious warble of distinct phrases, in South Africa often... read more


    Open woodland such as miombo woodland with sparse undergrowth, Baikiaea woodland, tall... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and their larvae, including ants (Formicidae), termites (Isoptera) and beetles (Coleoptera); also spiders (Araneae), centipedes (... read more


    Breeds in Oct–Nov and Mar in E Africa, Aug–Oct in Angola, Aug–Dec (mainly Sept–Nov) in Zambia, Sept–Dec (... read more


    Generally resident, but substantial regular movement suspected within S Africa. Reported less... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally uncommon to locally common; sparse above 1500 m, and scarce in open savanna and semi-arid parts of range. In South Africa, less common than... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B. (2020). Southern Black-flycatcher (Melaenornis pammelaina). 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).