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Burhinus capensis (Spotted thick-knee, Spotted dikkop) 

Gewone dikkop [Afrikaans]; Ingqangqolo (generic term for thick-knee) [Xhosa]; umBangaqhwa, umJenjana [Zulu]; Eswaita (term used for both species of dikkop) [Kwangali]; Khoho-ea-lira, Khoalira [South Sotho]; Gwarimutondo [Shona]; Umunkonkoni (generic term for thick-knee) [Swazi]; Mtshikuyana (generic term for dikkop) [Tsonga]; Kgoadirê, Mongwangwa, Tswangtswang [Tswana]; Kaapse griel [Dutch]; Oedicnème tachard [French]; Kaptriel, Bändertriel [German]; Alcaravão do Cabo [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: Charadriiformes

Burhinus capensis (Spotted thick-knee , Spotted dikkop)   
Spotted thick-knee, Bellville, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]  

Distribution and habitat

Although it has isolated populations in the Arabian Peninsula, the bulk of its population is in sub-Saharan Africa, absent from the most arid parts of Somalia and the lowland forest of west Africa and DRC. In southern Africa it is fairly common across much of the region, largely excluding Lesotho, southern Namibia and central and northern Mozambique. It generally prefers open habitats, especially savanna and grassland but also woodland fringes, low stony hills and urban habitats, such as parks, playing fields and parks.

Distribution of Spotted thick-knee 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.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Largely resident, although it is a mainly a dry season (April-December) visitor to Mashonaland, Zimbabwe.


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging in a plover-like manner, repeatedly running forward, stopping then jabbing prey with its bill. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, usually territorial solitary nester, although it occasionally forms loose colonies. It often rears two or even three broods in a single breeding season.
  • The nest (see images below) is a shallow scrape in the ground, sometimes unlined but usually with a lining of a few twigs, animal droppings, leaves or stone chips. It is usually located in grassland, either out in the open or partially concealed beneath a bush.
Burhinus capensis (Spotted thick-knee , Spotted dikkop) 
Spotted thick-knee approaching its clutch of eggs. [photo Peter Steyn ©] Spotted thick-knee brooding its chicks. [photo Peter Steyn ©]
Burhinus capensis (Spotted thick-knee , Spotted dikkop) 

Spotted thick-knee sitting on nest, West Coast Fossil Park, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from August-April, peaking from September-January.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 24-30 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching and are fed by both parents, fledging after about eight weeks in captivity (probably earlier in the wild). When threatened by a predator the chicks crouch and remain motionless, while the adults often pretend to have a broken back, wing or leg to distract it. In years when the adults rear multiple broods, the chicks usually become fully independent about 10 days after the next brood hatches.


Not threatened.


  • 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.