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Melaenornis pammelaina (Southern black flycatcher) 

SwartvlieŽvanger [Afrikaans]; umMbesi [Zulu]; Ndiru [Kwangali]; Nhengu, Nhengure (both names also applied to Fork-tailed drongo) [Shona]; Kaapse drongovliegenvanger [Dutch]; Gobemouche sud-africain [French]; Drongoschnšpper [German]; Papa-moscas-preto-meridional [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: Muscicapidae   

Melaenornis pammelaina (Southern black flycatcher)  Melaenornis pammelaina (Southern black flycatcher) 

Southern black flycatcher, South Africa. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Southern black flycatcher, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Kenya, southern DRC and Tanzania through Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Here it is common throughout the eastern and northern areas of the region, generally preferring habitats with tall vegetation and patches of open ground, such as miombo (Brachystegia), Mopane (Colosphermum mopane), Acacia and riparian woodland types, also occupying gardens and the edges of plantations.

Distribution of Southern black flycatcher 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

It has been recorded as prey of Falco peregrinus (Peregrine falcon).


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging from a low perch, such as a fencepost or the outermost, lowest branch of a tree, from which it pounces on prey on the ground and in the air. It may also glean prey from leaves and branches, and it occasionally joins mixed-species foraging flocks, especially with Fork-tailed drongos. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest (see image below) is a shallow, thin-walled cup usually built of dry grass and other plant material, on a foundation of twigs, lined with fine rootlets. It is typically placed in a hollow, such as a cavity in a tree trunk left by a falling branch or behind peeling bark of a burnt tree, less commonly in the broken light of an abandoned tractor, creeper tangles, banana bunches and palm sheaths.
Melaenornis pammelaina (Southern black flycatcher)  

Southern black flycatcher at its nest, Sericea farm, South Africa

  • Egg-laying season is from about May-January, peaking from September-October.
  • It lays 1-4 egg, which are probably incubated by the female for 13-16 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 15-20 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.