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Pternistis swainsonii (Swainson's spurfowl, Swainson's francolin) 

[= Francolinus swainsonii

Bosveldfisant [Afrikaans]; Khoale (generic term for francolins and spurfowls) [South Sotho]; Gwari, Gwarimutondo, Horwe [Shona]; Intsendzele [Swazi]; Nghwari ya xidhaka [Tsonga]; Kgwalę, Sogonokę [Tswana]; Swainson-frankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin de Swainson [French]; Swainsonfrankolin [German]; Francolim de Swainson [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 swainsonii (Swainson's spurfowl, Swainson's francolin) Pternistis swainsonii (Swainson's spurfowl, Swainson's francolin)

Swainson's spurfowl male (note long leg spurs). [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Swainson's spurfowl female. [photo Gerhard Theron ©]

Pternistis swainsonii (Swainson's spurfowl, Swainson's francolin)  Pternistis swainsonii (Swainson's spurfowl, Swainson's francolin) 
Swainson's spurfowl female with chick. [photo Neil Gray ©] Swainson's spurfowl male. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]


Distinguished from other spurfowl by the combination of red face, red throat, black upper bill and black legs. Male and female have similar plumage but the male can be distinguished by having long leg spurs.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from southern Angola and Zambia to northern Namibia, northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, western Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers grasslands or open savannas and adapts easily to cultivated, disturbed areas. 

Distribution of Swainson's 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 S. Wolf, Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve 1971, [© Transvaal Museum]


Predators and parasites

  • Parasites
    • Leucocytozoon peaolopesi
    • Hepatozoon
    • Aegyptianella
    • microfilariae (nematodes)


Mainly eats plant matter in winter supplemented with insects in summer, doing most of its foraging by digging and gleaning. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • bulbs
    • tubers
    • roots
    • seeds
    • berries
    • grass leaves
    • grain waste
      • sorghum
      • maize
      • barley
      • cereals
  • Invertebrates


  • Nest a scrape in the ground lined with grass and leaves, hidden among vegetation. 
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from February to May.
  • After laying 3-12 eggs, the female incubates them for 21-24 days before they hatch.
  • Chicks are able to fly short distances after 10-14 days and are near adults size after 3 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