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the web of life in southern Africa

Pternistis afer (Red-necked spurfowl, Red-necked francolin) 

[= Francolinus afer
Rooikeelfisant [Afrikaans]; Inkwali [Xhosa]; iNkwali [Zulu]; Sigwali [Kwangali]; Gorwe, Hwari [Shona]; Makokwe, N'hwarimakokwe, N'warimakokwe [Tsonga]; Roodkeelfrankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin gorge rouge [French]; Nacktkehlfrankolin, Rotkehlfrankolin [German]; Francolim-de-gola-vermelha [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 afer (Red-necked spurfowl, Red-necked francolin)   

Red-necked spurfowl male. [photo Jessica P. Opfer ]



The only spurfowl in southern Africa with red bill, red around the eyes, red throat and red legs. Swainson's spurfowl is similar in that it has red around the eyes and red throat but differs in having a black bill and blackish-brownish legs. The black streaking on the flanks against a silvery/grey/white background is also distinctive. This is a wide-ranging species with extensive variation in plumage patterning and colouration but the distinguishing characters mentioned above hold for all forms.

Male and female plumage similar. The male can be distinguished by have 1-2 long, sharp leg spurs.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Grootvadersbos (east of Swellendam in the Western Cape), up through the Eastern Cape, inland regions of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, southern Limpopo Province, Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe. Beyond southern Africa it occurs in parts of East Africa, Central Africa and over most of Angola. Found where there is dense cover such as along forest and river edges.

Distribution of Red-necked 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.  



Recorded by June Stannard, Uitenhage, South Africa 1957, [ Transvaal Museum]


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 invertebrates in summer and plant matter in winter, doing most of its foraging by digging and gleaning in the early morning and evening. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Plants
    • small tubers
    • bulbs
    • roots
    • seeds
    • fruit
    • commercial grains
      • maize
      • sorghum
      • cereals


  • Nest a scrape in the ground, lined with grass and a few feathers, and hidden among vegetation.
  • Breeding season (laying dates): variable, depending on rainfall but mainly November to April.
  • After laying 3-9 eggs, the female incubates them for about 23 days before they hatch.
  • Young are almost fully grown by 3-4 months.


  • 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