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Scleroptila levaillantii (Red-winged francolin) 

[= Francolinus levaillantii

Rooivlerkpatrys [Afrikaans]; Intendele (generic term for francolin), Isakhwatsha [Xhosa]; iNtendele (generic term for francolin) [Zulu]; Khoale (generic term for francolins and spurfowls) [South Sotho]; Roodvleugel-frankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin de Levaillant [French]; Rotflügelfrankolin [German]; Francolim-d'asa-vermelha [Portuguese]

Life > Metazoa (animals) > Phylum: Chordata > Vertebrata > Class: Aves (birds) > Order: Galliformes > Family: Phasianidae

Scleroptila levaillantii (Red-winged francolin)  Scleroptila levaillantii (Red-winged francolin) 

Red-winged francolin, Rugged Glen NR, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]

For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Red-winged_Francolin


The 'grassland francolins' (genus Scleroptila), which include the Orange River, Grey-winged, Red-winged and Shelley's francolins, are quite similar to one another. It is most similar to the Orange River francolin but can be distinguished by having a broad black-and-white speckled breast band, not the thin black band found in the latter species. In addition, it can be distinguished from Grey-winged by the white, not grey-speckled, throat and by the much greater proportion of russet on the outstretched wings. Unlike the Shelley's francolin, it does not have black-and-white patterning on the lower breast and belly.

Plumage of male and female is the same. Male has a short, blunt leg spur.

Distribution and habitat

There are about seven separate populations distributed through African countries. The southern-most population has a distribution extending from Swellendam in the Western Cape, up the east coast, round Lesotho and into the highveld.  In the Western Cape it is found in high altitude mountain fynbos and elsewhere it is found mainly in grasslands dominated by the grass Themeda triandra. 

Distribution of Red-winged 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 S. Wolf, Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve 1972, [© Transvaal Museum]


Predators and parasites

  • Blood parasites
    • Leucocytozoon macleani (phylum: Apicomplexa)
    • Trypanosoma avium (Kinetoplastida; same genus as parasite causing sleeping sickness)
    • microfilariae (larvae of parasitic nematodes)


In winter, feeds mainly on underground bulbs and corms (e.g. Hypoxis, Rhodohypoxis, Moraea, Hesperantha and Gladiolus). In summer, insects become an important component in the diet. 


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester.
  • Nest is a shallow scrape lined with grass, positioned among grass tufts. Prefers nesting along wetland edges in grass that has not burnt for 2-3 years. 
Scleroptila levaillantii (Red-winged francolin)  

Red-winged francolin nest with eggs, Kaapschehoop, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Breeding season (laying dates):
    • Kwa-Zulu-Natal and Mpumalanga: August to March (peak November to December)
    • Eastern and Western Cape: March to July
  • Four to 10 eggs are laid and after the clutch is completed, the female incubates them for about 22 days. 
  • Chicks are precocial and leave the nest soon after hatching. 


  • In some regions, suitable habitat for this species has become reduced through overgrazing and and too frequent burning (annual burning is too frequent; biennial - every two years - is all right). This species has become locally extinct over large areas of the former homelands of Transkei and Ciskei (now in the Eastern Cape) largely as a result of these two factors. 


  • 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