Zoothera guttata (Spotted ground-thrush, Spotted thrush) 

Natallyster [Afrikaans]; umuNswi (generic term for thrush) [Zulu]; Grive tachetée [French]; Fleckengrunddrossel [German]; Tordo-da-terra-malhado [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 guttata (Spotted ground-thrush, Spotted thrush) 

Spotted ground-thrush. [photo Sion Stanton ©]

Distribution and habitat

It has highly isolated populations scattered across sub-Saharan Africa, in Sudan, Tanzania, Malawi, DRC and southern Africa. Here it is rare, with an estimate population of only 400-800 pairs, scattered across the coast of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It only occurs in coastal dune forest, scarp or lowland forest and any adjacent thickets; within these habitats is most easily found in partially open areas with scattered saplings and a dense canopy.

Distribution of Spotted 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.  

Movements and migrations

Complex, with two separate populations migrating separately:

  • The first breeds in the Eastern Cape and migrates to the coastal forests of KwaZulu-Natal in the period from April-May, returning again around August-September to breed.
  • Another population breeds around northern KwaZulu-Natal (centered around Eshowe), moving eastwards around March-May for coastal forests, returning later in August, when earthworms populations increase.


It mainly eats earthworms, supplemented with other invertebrates such as snails. It does most of its foraging singly or in pairs on the forest floor, flicking over leaves in search of prey; it also occasionally joins mixed-species foraging flocks, alongside Terrestrial brownbuls and Green-backed camaropteras.


  • The nest is a large, messy cup built of rootlets, lichen, small twigs and other plant fibres, neatly lined with small rootlets. It is typically placed in a thin sapling in the forest understorey, such as a Narrow-leaved violet bush (Rinorea angustifolia).
  • Egg-laying season in the Dlinza forest, KwaZulu-Natal is from September-April, peaking from October-February.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-14 days.
  • The chicks are brooded almost non-stop for the first 3-4 days, and are fed by both parents on a diet of mainly earthworms. They eventually leave the nest after about 13-15 days, at which point they flutter down to the ground, where they stay for the next 7-10 days while being fed by the adults.


Endangered globally and locally, as it has an estimated world population of less than 2500 individuals and decreasing. It is thought that fragmentation of coastal dune forest and predation of its eggs and chicks by monkeys and raptors has at least partially cause this situation.


  • 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. .



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