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Pternistis adspersus (Red-billed spurfowl, Red-billed francolin) 

[= Francolinus adspersus

Rooibekfisant [Afrikaans]; Siswagaragwali [Kwangali]; Roodsnavelfrankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin bec rouge [French]; Rotschnabelfrankolin, Sandhuhn [German]; Francolim-de-bico-vermelho [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

Pternistis adspersus (Red-billed spurfowl, Red-billed francolin)  Pternistis adspersus (Red-billed spurfowl, Red-billed francolin) 

Red-billed francolin male. [photo Mike Grimes ]

Red-billed francolin male. [photo Neil Gray ]



Recorded by Clem Hagner, Chobi National Park, Botswana, [ Transvaal Museum]



The only francolin in southern Africa with yellow around the eye. This, as well as the combination of red bill, red legs, absence of white or red on the throat make identification of this species easy.

Plumage of male and female is similar but the male can be distinguished by his long, sharp leg spurs.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in dry savannas of northern Namibia, south-western Angola, Botswana, western Zimbabwe and western North West Province.

Distribution of Red-billed spurfowl 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

No records but would be vulnerable to birds-of-prey and small mammalian carnivores. Blood and nematode parasites have been found in other francolin species. 


Mainly eats plant matter, doing most of its foraging by exploring sandy clearings, often scratching through droppings in search of undigested seeds. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • bulbs
    • corms
    • tubers
    • fruit
      • Tribulus terrestris (Devil-thorn)
    • seeds
  • Invertebrates


  • Nest a scrape in ground with no lining or sparsely lined, situated among grass or bushes.
  • The breeding season is year round, dependent on rainfall.
  • After laying 3-10 eggs, the female incubates them for about 22 days before they hatch.
  • Young leave the nest soon after hatching.


  • 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