Family Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse (Phasianidae)

Least Concern

Swainson's Francolin (Pternistis swainsonii)


French: Francolin de Swainson German: Swainsonfrankolin Spanish: Francolín de Swainson
Other common names: Swainson's Spurfowl

Perdix Swainsonii

A. Smith

, 1836,

Kurrichane, western Transvaal (North West Province), South Africa


Has been thought to be close to P. leucoscepus, P. rufopictus and P. afer. One genetic study indicated that present species and P. afer are each other’s closest relatives, although the other two species (P. leucoscepus, P. rufopictus) were not sampled#R. Syringeal characteristics partially substantiate this arrangement#R. Hybridizes with P. afer in NE Zimbabwe (near Harare) and with P. natalensis in SW Zimbabwe (Bulawayo); suspected of hybridizing also with Dendroperdix sephaena in Limpopo Province of N South Africa#R. Name cooperi refers to a hybrid between present species and P. afer#R. Geographical variation slight, and several additional described races are considered doubtfully valid: damarensis (Waterberg, in NC Namibia), gilli (N Namibia to W Zambia and N Botswana) and chobiensis (NE Botswana to W Mozambique) all included in nominate swainsonii. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. s. lundazi C. M. N. White, 1947 – NE Zambia and NW Malawi S to N & W Zimbabwe and SW Mozambique.
  • P. s. swainsonii (A. Smith, 1836) – SE Angola (S Cuando Cubango), N Namibia and C Zambia S to NE South Africa (S to North West Province and N KwaZulu-Natal).
  • Descriptive notes

    Male c. 38 cm, female c. 33 cm; male 400–875 g, female 340–750 g. Blackish upper mandible and legs prevent confusion with P. afer and other bare-throated... read more


    Most vocal early morning and late afternoon, calling from elevated perch (e.g. termite mound or low... read more


    Savanna and bush, not far from water; prefers dense grassland near grain fields, sorghum and water... read more

    Food and feeding

    Bulbs, tubers and roots, seeds, berries and grass leaves, together with some spiders and insects, including locusts, ticks, beetles and... read more


    Lays in all months depending on locality, but onset of breeding often appears associated with rainfall: in South Africa Dec–May (peak... read more


    Sedentary, with very little evidence of much dispersal, even by juveniles, during South African... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Mace Lande: safe. Occurs in suitable habitat throughout c. 1,550,000 km². Generally common to abundant over much of range, with... read more

    Recommended citation

    McGowan, P.J.K. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Swainson's Francolin (Pternistis swainsonii). 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 30 March 2020).