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the web of life in southern Africa

Cursorius rufus (Burchell's courser) 

Bloukopdrawwertjie [Afrikaans]; Ingegane, Ucelithafa [Xhosa]; uNobulongwe (generic term for courser) [Zulu]; Mokopjoane [South Sotho]; Rosse renvogel [Dutch]; Courvite de Burchell [French]; Rostrennvogel [German]; Corredor de Burchell [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 > Family: Glareolidae

Cursorius rufus (Burchell's courser)  Cursorius rufus (Burchell's courser) 

Burchell's courser. [photo Johann du Preez ]

Burchell's courser, Etosha National Park, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from south-western Angola through Namibia to the Northern Cape and adjacent provinces, as well as southern Botswana. It generally prefers open, sparsely vegetated areas, such as heavily grazed or burnt grasslands, Karoo, stony and gravelly semi-desert, bare or slightly grassy pans, ploughed fields, emergent cereal crops and rarely coastal dunes.

Distribution of Burchell's courser 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.  

Movements and migrations

Nomadic and locally migratory, although its movements are not well understood; it is thought to be a summer visitor in the north and a winter visitor to the south-west.


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging by repeatedly running 6-10 steps, then pausing to search for prey to be plucked from the ground or dug out from the soil. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
    • termites
      • Hodotermes mossambicus (Northern harvester termites)
    • Coleoptera (beetles and weevils)
    • ants


  • Monogamous, solitary breeder, probably with a long pair bond.
  • It does not build a nest, instead laying its eggs on bare ground (such as in the photo below), often between grass tufts or some other disruptive object.
Cursorius rufus (Burchell's courser)  

Burchell's courser incubating its eggs, Cyferfontein, Springfontein, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

  • Egg-laying usually starts after rainfall in the north-west and before rainfall further south, peaking from June-November.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for at least 25 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest within 8 hours of hatching, crouching low when their parents warn them of a predator's presence.


Not threatened, although its range and population have markedly decreased in the past 150 years, the cause of which is not well understood. It is mostly likely due to the spread of agriculture across its favoured habitats.


  • 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.