Scleroptila levaillantoides (Orange River francolin) 

[= Francolinus levaillantoides

Kalaharipatrys [Afrikaans]; Khoale (generic term for francolins and spurfowls) [South Sotho]; Lesogo (also applied to Coqui francolin) [Tswana]; Archer-frankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin d'Archer [French]; Rebhuhnfrankolin [German]; Francolim-dourado [Portuguese]

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Scleroptila levaillantoides (Orange River francolin)
Orange River francolin male. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ] Orange River francolin male performing, near Devon, Guateng. [photo Johan van Rensburg ]
Scleroptila levaillantoides (Orange River francolin)

Orange River francolin males performing, near Devon, Guateng. [photo Johan van Rensburg ]

Identification

The 'grassland francolins' (genus Scleroptila), which include the Orange River, Grey-winged, Red-winged and Shelley's francolins, are quite similar to one another. The Orange River francolin is highly variable in plumage pattern and is most easily confused with the Red-winged francolin from which it can be distinguished by having a thin, not broad, breast band. It differs from Shelley's francolin in lacking bold black and white markings on the lower breast and belly and by only one of the facial stripes (the moustachial stripe) meeting on the breast to form the breast band. It differs from Grey-winged francolin in having a white, not grey-freckled, throat. 

Male and female have the same plumage. The male can be distinguished by having leg spurs.

Distribution and habitat

Found in grasslands and arid savannas. Near endemic to southern Africa with a distribution extending from southern Angola, through northern Namibia and Botswana and into the Free State and adjacent regions. Archer's francolin Scleroptila lorti, which is found in Ethiopia and vicinity, was considered a subspecies of the Scleroptila levaillantoides but is now generally given full species status. 

Distribution of Orange River francolin 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.  

Call

 
   

Recorded by S. Wolf, Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve 1971
, [ Transvaal Museum]

 

Predators and parasites

No records but would be vulnerable to birds-of-prey and small mammalian carnivores. Blood and nematode parasites have been found in other similar francolin species. 

Food

Corms, bulbs (e.g. Moraea species), seeds, berries, flowers, fallen grain, green shoots; insects in summer. 

Breeding

  • Nest, which is built by the female, is a scrape in the ground, lined with dry grass and hidden in dense grass. 
  • Breeding season (laying dates): year round, depending on rainfall.
  • After laying 3-8 eggs, the female incubates them for 20-23 days.
  • Young leave nest soon after hatching; start taking short flights after 12-14 days, and fly strongly after 5-6 weeks.

Conservation

Vulnerable to overgrazing and too frequent burning, and re

References

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

  • Sinclair, I, Hockey, P. and Tarboton, W. 2002. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa. 3rd edition. Struik, Cape Town.

Text by Hamish Robertson

 

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