Family Thick-knees (Burhinidae)

Least Concern

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)


French: Oedicnème tachard German: Kaptriel Spanish: Alcaraván de El Cabo
Other common names: Spotted Dikkop

Oedicnemus capensis

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Several other races proposed: doubtfully distinct are ehrenbergi (from Dahlak I, off Eritrea), synonymized with dodsoni, and affinis (SW Red Sea coast) with maculosus; also, psammochromus (Togo region) is included in maculosus, and csongor (E shore of L Victoria) in nominate capensis. Four subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. c. maculosus (Temminck, 1824) – Senegal E to Eritrea and Somalia, and S to Uganda and Kenya.
  • B. c. dodsoni (Ogilvie-Grant, 1899) – coastal Eritrea and N Somalia and S Arabia (extreme SW Saudi Arabia, W Yemen, C & S Oman).
  • B. c. capensis (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – Kenya S to South Africa, and W from Zambia to NW Angola.
  • B. c. damarensis (Reichenow, 1905) – SW Angola, Namibia, SW Botswana and NW South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    37–44 cm; 375–610 g. Distinctive thick-knee, with upperparts clearly spotted, rather than streaked; upperpart feathers have basal bar and distal spot, rather than... read more


    Mainly vocal in twilight and at night. Commonest vocalization a long series of mellow over-slurred... read more


    Prefers arid areas, away from watersides; found in open woodland and savanna (e.g. dry ... read more

    Food and feeding

    Main food probably insects, but also known to take small amphibians, molluscs, crustaceans and some seeds. Known to drink water. Feeds... read more


    Lays around end of dry season (e.g. Uganda, Malawi, Ghana) and beginning of wet season, or within the dry season (e.g. Zambia). In Arabia,... read more


    Resident and apparently mainly sedentary, although considered to be largely a dry-season breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Estimates of population are scarce, but there are perhaps 1200 pairs in Arabia and 1000–5000 individuals in Mali. Generally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hume, R., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2019). Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis). 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 24 February 2019).