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Emberiza capensis (Cape bunting) 

Rooivlerkstreepkoppie [Afrikaans]; umNdweza (also applied to Golden-breasted bunting) [Zulu]; ’Maborokoane [South Sotho]; Kaapse gors [Dutch]; Bruant du Cap [French]; Kapammer [German]; Escrevedeira 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: Passeriformes > Family: Fringillidae

Emberiza capensis (Cape bunting)  Emberiza capensis (Cape bunting)

Cape bunting, West Coast Fossil Park, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Cape bunting, Erongo Mountains, Namibia. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Emberiza capensis (Cape bunting) 

Cape bunting, Tankwa Karoo National Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Angola and Malawi to southern Africa, where it is especially common in South Africa and Lesotho while more scarce in patches of Namibia and Zimbabwe, marginally extending into Botswana and Mozambique. It generally prefers dry shrubland and heathland on rocky ridges and plains, open woodland along dry watercourses, villages and gardens, rarely moving into thickets of alien Port Jackson willow (Acacia saligna) and Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops).

Distribution of Cape bunting 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

Its nestlings have been recorded as prey of the Large-spotted genet (Genetta tigrina).

Movements and migrations

Largely resident, although its numbers increase in the Western Cape during the period from May-September.


It mainly eats seeds, fruit, basal nodes of grasses and arthropods, doing most of its foraging on the ground among rocks, forbs and shrubs, sometimes entering buildings to feed on food items on the floor. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
      • Aridaria (donkievygies)
      • Sphalmanthus (Mesembryanthaceae)
      • Chenopodium (misbredies)
      • Galenia (bloubrakbossies)
      • Atriplex lindleyi (Blasiebrak)
      • Tetragonia echinata
      • weeds
    • arils on the seeds of Acacia cyclops (Rooikrans)
    • fruit
      • Euclea (guarris)
      • Lycium (honey-thorns)
  • Arthropods
    • insects
      • ants
      • Microhodotermes viator (Southern harvester termite)
      • pupa of flies and mosquitoes (Diptera)
    • spiders


  • Monogamous solitary nester, building a cup of grass, roots and twigs lined with rootlets, fine grass, fluffy seeds and hair. It is typically placed in a low shrub, bush or creeper, but it may also use overgrown rock ledges and man-made sites such as a bunch of small containers in a workshop.
  • Egg-laying season is from October-June, peaking from September-November in South Africa and from December-April in Zimbabwe.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated for about 13-16 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 10-13 days.


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.