Saxicola torquatus (African stonechat) 

Gewone bontrokkie [Afrikaans]; Ingcaphe, Isangcaphe [Xhosa]; isAncaphela, isAnqawane, isiChegu [Zulu]; Hlatsinyane, Tlhatsinyane [South Sotho]; Aziatische roodborsttapuit [Dutch]; Tarier pātre [French]; Schwarzkehlchen [German]; Cartaxo-comum [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: Saxicola

Saxicola torquatus (African stonechat)  Saxicola torquatus (African stonechat) 
African stonechat male, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] African stonechat female, South Africa. [photo Philip Fourie ©]
Saxicola torquatus (African stonechat)  Saxicola torquatus (African stonechat) 

African stonechat male (immature), West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

African stonechat juvenile, Sani Pass, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches across sub-Saharan Africa, but with the bulk of its population located from eastern Sudan and Ethiopia through southern DRC, Angola and Tanzania to southern Africa. Here it is common across much of Zimbabwe, northern Botswana,  Mozambique, South Africa and Caprivi Strip, Namibia. It generally prefers montane or open grassland (with scattered shrubs and bushes), fynbos shrubland, grassy hillsides, edges of high altitude forest, swamp edges and cultivated land.

Distribution of African stonechat 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.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Red-chested cuckoo.


It mainly eats insects and their larvae, supplemented with other invertebrates, lizards, fruit and seeds. It does most of its foraging from a perch, pouncing on prey on the ground and occasionally hawking insects aerially. It may also forage along rocky shores, hawking prey such as fish from perches on rocks and kelp. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest (see image below) built solely by the female, consisting of a deep cup made of dry grass, rootlets and thin plant stems and lined with finer rootlets, wool, hair and sometimes feathers. It is typically placed on the ground or on a low bank, at the base of a grass tuft, herb or shrub, although it was once recorded using a thorny tree as a nest site.
Saxicola torquatus (African stonechat)  

African stonechat nest with eggs, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from July-December, peaking from August-November.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14-15 days.
  • The chicks are brooded solely by the female but fed both parents, leaving the nest after about 13-16 days, becoming fully independent about 2-3 weeks later.


Not threatened.


  • 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