Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush) 

Oranjelyster [Afrikaans]; Gurney-lijster [Dutch]; Grive de Gurney [French]; Gurneys grunddrossel [German]; Tordo-da-terra-laranja [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: Zoothera

Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush)  Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush)

Orange ground-thrush at nest with chick. [photo Peter Steyn ]

Orange ground-thrush, Benvie Farm, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ]

For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Orange_Ground-Thrush

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in scattered populations from Kenya through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique to southern Africa. Here it is generally uncommon in moist Afromontane evergreen forest along the escarpment of eastern and southern South Africa (also in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands), especially along perennial streams in deeply incised drainage lines.

Distribution of Orange ground-thrush 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.  


It mainly eats invertebrates, especially earthworms, supplemented with berries and other fruit. It does most of its foraging on carpets of leaf litter, plucking food from the ground and from beneath rotting logs, also taking prey flushed by a mound-building mole-rat (Cryptomys). The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • earthworms
    • arthropods occurring in leaf litter
    • small moluscs
  • Fruit (such as berries)


Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush)  Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush) 
Orange ground-thrush parents feeding the young chicks, Nkandla Forest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Guy Upfold ] They mainly feed the young earthworms, as shown in this picture. [photo Hugh Chittenden ]
Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush)  Zoothera gurneyi (Orange ground-thrush, Orange thrush) 
Orange ground-thrush eggs, Nkandla Forest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa [photo Hugh Chittenden ] Female Orange ground-thrush brooding the chicks, Nkandla Forest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Guy Upfold ]
  • The nest (see images above) is an untidy open cup built of dead leaves and the fronds of small ferns and covered in green moss. The interior is often lined with black rootlets, or more occasionally with the green leaf fronds of Asparagus. It is typically placed on a horizontal branch or fork in an understorey shrub or bush, but it may also position it against a tree trunk supported by vines, in a vegetated bank or road cutting, a hollow in a gully wall or on the crown of a tree fern.
  • Egg-laying season is from October-January.
  • It lays 1-3, usually 2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 15 days.
  • The chicks are brooded by the female on misty or wet days (which are frequent in escarpment forest), meaning that the male does most of the foraging, mainly feeding the young on earthworms. The chicks eventually leave the nest after about 15-19 days, after which they are still dependent on their parents for an unknown period of time.


Not threatened globally, but Near-threatened in southern Africa, largely due to fragmentation of Afromontane forest in South Africa, caused by clearing, deforestation and illegal cultivation of Cannabis (Cannabis sativa)


  • 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. 

  • Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree. A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds). 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2: Passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.



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