Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

White-browed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas leucophrys)


French: Agrobate à dos roux German: Weißbrauen-Heckensänger Spanish: Alzacola dorsirrojo

Sylvia leucophrys


, 1817,

Gamtoos River, eastern Cape Province, South Africa


Races form two geographically interdigitating groups, NE “white-winged group” and “red-backed group”, which possibly differ also in habitat and voice (limited evidence suggests that on average white-winged group has simpler song of fewer notes, or less variation in note shapes, with phrases repeated for longer periods without changing); detailed evaluation required in order to determine whether two species involved. Geographical variation partly clinal; races ovamboensis, munda and zambesiana perhaps invalid. Described races makalaka (N Limpopo), pectoralis (between R Orange and Kurrichane), simulator (from S Mozambique) and strepitans (Natal) all synonymized with nominate. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. l. leucoptera (Rüppell, 1845) – White-winged Scrub-robin – SE South Sudan, C & S Ethiopia, N Somalia and N Kenya.
  • C. l. eluta (Bowen, 1934) – SE Ethiopia#R, S Somalia and NE Kenya.
  • C. l. vulpina (Reichenow, 1891) – E Kenya and E Tanzania.
  • C. l. brunneiceps (Reichenow, 1891) – C & S Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • C. l. sclateri (Grote, 1930) – C Tanzania.
  • C. l. zambesiana (Sharpe, 1882) – extreme S & SW South Sudan, N & E DRCongo, Uganda and W Kenya S to E & S Zambia, E Zimbabwe and N Mozambique.
  • C. l. munda (Cabanis, 1880) – S Gabon E to W DRCongo and S to C Angola.
  • C. l. ovamboensis (Neumann, 1920) – S Angola and N Namibia E to SW Zambia and W Zimbabwe.
  • C. l. leucophrys (Vieillot, 1817) – Red-backed Scrub-robin – S Zimbabwe and S Mozambique S to N & E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–16 cm; 13–20 g. Nominate race is olive-brown above, shading to rufous on rump, with blackish wings with double white wingbar and buffy margins of flight-... read more


    Song, often from open perch but also well inside cover, very loud series of often rapid whistled... read more


    Wide variety of bushy and wooded country. Open arid thorn-scrub and woodland, notably where... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates, mainly insects, in particular termites. Of 23 stomachs and faecal samples from S Africa, 69% held termites, 67% ants, 59%... read more


    Mar–May in Ethiopia; Oct–Jan in Rwanda; at any time of year in DRCongo and E Africa, but mainly Apr–May in latter; Oct... read more


    Sedentary almost everywhere; in extreme S of range, regular winter desertion of thornveld occurs in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. The common scrub-robin of much of E & C Africa. Frequent to abundant, with very large range and great ecological flexibility (preferring drier... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2019). White-browed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas leucophrys). 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 14 December 2019).