Oenanthe pileata (Capped wheatear) 

Hoëveldskaapwagter [Afrikaans]; Inkotyeni, Isixaxabesha (these terms also applied to Buff-steaked chat) [Xhosa]; iSangwili [Zulu]; Kazinganzwi [Kwangali]; Thoromeli (also applied to Ant-eating chat) [South Sotho]; Ntidi [Tswana]; aardtapuit [Dutch]; Traquet du Cap [French]; Erdschmätzer [German]; Chasco-de-barrete [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Muscicapidae > Genus: Oenanthe

Oenanthe pileata (Capped wheatear)  Oenanthe pileata (Capped wheatear) 
Capped wheatear, Philadelphia, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Capped wheatear, near Vanrhynsdorp, Northern Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©].
Oenanthe pileata (Capped wheatear)  Oenanthe pileata (Capped wheatear) 

Capped wheatear, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

.Capped wheatear juvenile, Melton Wold farm, Northern Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©].

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in Africa south of the Sahel, from Kenya, southern DRC and Tanzania through Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is common across most of the region, excluding southern Mozambique and south-eastern South Africa, generally preferring dry grassy plains with patches of bare ground, semi-arid shrubland, cattle pens, fallow fields and recently harvested cropland.

Distribution of Capped wheatear in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of the Black-footed cat (Felis nigripes).

Movements and migrations

Complex and not well known, as it is thought be resident in some areas and a breeding migrant in others. Generally, it is thought to breed in the higher rainfall areas of its distribution from about July-November, after which it migrates to more arid regions such as Namibia, the Kalahari Desert and the Karoo.


It mainly eats insects (especially ants), supplemented with other invertebrates, fruit and seeds. It does most of its foraging from a perch, pouncing on prey on the ground or sometimes chasing and stabbing them. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest is a cup built of leaves, grass and rootlets and lined with hair feathers and other fine material. It is typically placed up to around one metre below ground in a rodent burrow, although it has been recorded to use old metal railway sleepers as nest sites.
  • Egg-laying season is from June-October, peaking from August-September.
  • It lays 2-4, rarely 5 pale bluish or greenish white eggs.


Not threatened, in fact it has adapted to well to the introduction of cultivation.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



 Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

Birds home   Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search