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A photo of a White-browed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas leucophrys)
White-browed Scrub Robin

White-browed Scrub Robin

Cercotrichas leucophrys

The White-browed Scrub Robin, or Red-backed Scrub-Robin, is a small, unassuming bird with a distinctive pale superciliary stripe that graces its face like an elegant brow. Both sexes share a similar appearance, with a plumage that varies subtly across their range. The bird's overall length ranges from 14.0 to 16.5 cm, from the tip of its bill to the end of its tail.

Identification Tips

Upon encountering this species, one should note the clear white tips on the greater and lesser wing coverts, which are a hallmark of the bird. The tail, a blend of greyish brown to rufous tones, features a black subterminal band and white tips that are particularly noticeable when the bird fans its tail. The breast may exhibit streaking, and the flanks are tinged with tawny buff, though this can vary among individuals and subspecies.


The White-browed Scrub Robin is a versatile inhabitant of woodlands and savannas, from arid to mesic environments. It thrives in areas with sufficient cover, such as open scrub or thickets, and is often found in grassy locales that are conducive to nesting.


This bird's range extends across a swath of sub-Saharan Africa, from Angola to Zimbabwe, and from Ethiopia to South Africa. It occupies a variety of latitudes, from tropical to temperate zones.


The White-browed Scrub Robin is a sedentary bird, generally remaining within its territory throughout the year. It is known for its skittish yet curious nature, often singing from the seclusion of dense shrubbery. On the ground, it moves with a distinctive hop as it forages, and it frequently flicks and fans its tail—a behavior shared with its close relatives.

Song & Calls

The bird's song is a familiar sound in the bush, reminiscent of the Turdus genus, and is characterized by its loud and variable nature. The song may consist of numerous repetitions, sometimes identical, and is believed to vary between subspecies. The 'white-winged' group's song is notably shriller. Alarm calls are sharp, with a skirr or skee-ip note.


Monogamous pairs nest solitarily during the early to midsummer months. The female alone constructs the nest from dry grass, placing it within a grass tuft. Typically, three cream-colored eggs, blotched with brown and purple, are laid and incubated solely by the female. Both parents rear the chicks, although some nests fall victim to cuckoo parasitism.

Similar Species

The White-browed Scrub Robin may be confused with the Kalahari Scrub Robin in certain regions, but can be distinguished by its habitat preferences and subtle plumage differences.

Diet and Feeding

Insects form the staple of this bird's diet, with a particular fondness for termites and ants. It is often observed visiting termite galleries, picking off the insects with precision.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List currently classifies the White-browed Scrub Robin as Least Concern, indicating a stable population across its extensive range.

White-browed Scrub Robin Sounds

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White-browed Scrub Robins on Birda


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