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Dendroperdix sephaena (Crested francolin) 

[= Francolinus sephaena

Bospatrys [Afrikaans]; isiKhwehle (also applied to Natal spurfowl) [Zulu]; Sitjindakarare [Kwangali]; Hwerekwere [Shona]; Ingwenyane [Swazi]; Nghwari (generic term for francolin) [Tsonga]; Kuiffrankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin huppé [French]; Schopffrankolin [German]; Francolim-de-poupa [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: Galliformes > Family: Phasianidae

Dendroperdix sephaena (Crested francolin)  Dendroperdix sephaena (Crested francolin) 

Crested francolin male with characteristic cocked tail. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Crested francolin. [photo Paul Zaayman ©]. The individual on the left is a male because of the long upcurved leg spur.


Can be distinguished from other francolins by the broad white eye-stripe contrasting with the dark head, combined with the white throat. Its habit of cocking its tail (see image above) is also a useful distinguishing feature.

Female and juvenile are less boldly marked than the male and lack the long, upcurved leg spur of the male.

Distribution and habitat

Found in woodland and wooded savanna in a distribution extending from Ethiopia down to the northern regions of southern Africa.

Distribution of Crested francolin 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.  



Recorded by June Stannard, Ndumu Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal 1968, [© Transvaal Museum]


Predators and parasites


In summer feeds mainly on insects while in winter it is mainly herbivorous (underground corms and bulbs, above ground shoots, leaves, fruits and berries). 


  • Form breeding pairs (monogamous) that can last for up to 10 months.
  • Males compete and fight over females (see images below).
Dendroperdix sephaena (Crested francolin) Dendroperdix sephaena (Crested francolin)

Two males competing, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

  • Copulation follows a ritual display. 
  • Nest is hidden among grass and/or shrubs and consists of a scrape in the ground lined with grass and leaves. 
  • Breeding season coincides with rain:
    • March to May peak in N Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
    • October to March  in South Africa.
  • 3-7 eggs are laid and after the clutch has been completed, it is incubated for 19-26 days, exclusively by the female. 
Dendroperdix sephaena (Crested francolin)   

Crested francolin clutch, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Meanwhile the male guards the general area around the nest and uses a warning call to alert the female to any approaching danger.
  • Chicks leave the nest about 2 hours after hatching and are looked after by their parents. 


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

  • Sinclair, I, Hockey, P. and Tarboton, W. 2002. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa. 3rd edition. Struik, Cape Town.

Text by Hamish Robertson