Cape Francolin

Also known as the Cape Spurfowl, the Cape Francolin is endemic to the Western Cape of South Africa, although it is also be found in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape

South Africa BirdlifeThe Cape Francolin {Pternistis capensis}

Also known as the Cape spurfowl, the Cape francolin is endemic to the Western Cape of South Africa, although it can also be found in some parts of the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. It is often found in domestic gardens or pecking at the ground with farm chickens. Despite being a strong flyer, this bird will almost always opt to run along the ground.

The Cape spurfowl has a beautiful plumage that is characterised by a brownish-grey colour that has fine white wavy patterns or markings. The crown and nape are less detailed. The birds have red legs, which are clearly seen, even from a distance. The males are slightly larger than their female counterparts, but are distinguished by the two spurs on their legs (as opposed to the female, which may have one short spur, if anything). Younger birds can be spotted by their dull-coloured legs and clearer markings (known as vermiculations).

This bird is often confused with other francolins. An effective way of differentiating it, though, is to look for its pale cheeks and dark cap.

Quick Facts

Size

Range weight: 440 – 660g (females) and 600 – 900g (males)
Range length: 40 – 42cm.

Habitat

The Cape spurfowl favours scrubby areas that have good access to running water. They are frequently found in the fynbos scrub of the Western Cape and the bushes of the Karoo, as well as in people’s gardens and on farmlands.

Distribution

Although endemic to the Western Cape Province, this francolin is also found in parts of the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and southern Namibia.

Diet

The Cape spurfowl explores its surrounds for fruit that has fallen from the tree, plants and plant matter, and invertebrates. Its diet includes bulbs, corms, seeds, grain, berries, insects, small snails, ants, and so on.

Socialisation

When left undisturbed, the Cape spurfowl proves itself to be rather tame, approaching homes and domestic gardens quite freely.

The males tend to need to establish dominance only around breeding time. This is done by chasing one another around, proving the winner’s stamina.

Communication

The Cape francolin has a loud voice, and its call is phonetically rendered as “cackalac-cackalac-cackalac”.

Reproduction

Mating usually occurs in the spring and early summer. However, this does vary somewhat, depending on the area and seasons.

While males are competitive with one another, they do not seem to display any loyalty to the female as a partner.

A nest is made by scraping a hole in the ground in an area where there is surrounding bush and scrub to conceal it. Grass is put down to line the nest and make it warmer and more comfortable for the chicks. On occasion, two females may choose to share a nest.

The female lays one egg every second day, until she reaches a total of between four and eight eggs. She is responsible for incubating her eggs and looking after the young. Chicks fledge at about 12 days of age.

Incubation

22 - 25 days.

Life Expectancy

The Cape francolin lives for up to 7 years.

Threats

Although the chicks may be preyed upon by falcons and other opportunistic feeders, there are no major threats to the Cape spurfowl or francolin, which enjoys very healthy population numbers.

References

Biodiversity Explorer; Kwe-Lachirp; BirdLife International.

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Cape Francolin Conservation Status

  • Least Concern

Did you know?

The Cape Francolin is often confused with other francolins. An effective way of differentiating it, though, is to look for its pale cheeks and dark cap.

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