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Scleroptila shelleyi (Shelley's francolin) 

[= Francolinus shelleyi

Laeveldpatrys [Afrikaans]; iNtendele (generic term for francolin) [Zulu]; Njenjele [Tsonga]; Shelley-frankolijn [Dutch]; Francolin de Shelley [French]; Shelleyfrankolin [German]; Francolim de Shelley [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

Scleroptila shelleyi (Shelley's francolin)  Scleroptila shelleyi (Shelley's francolin) 

Shelley's francolin. [photo Callie de Wet ]

Shelley's francolins. [photo Neil Gray ]


The 'grassland francolins' (genus Scleroptila), which include the Orange River, Grey-winged, Red-winged and Shelley's francolins, are quite similar to one another. Shelley's francolin can be distinguished by the black-and-white patterning on the lower breast and belly, which contrasts with the chestnut and buff patterned upper breast. In addition, it differs from the Grey-winged francolin in having a white, not grey-freckled throat

Male and female have the same plumage. Male can be distinguised by having tarsal spurs.

Distribution and habitat

Distributed through NE regions of southern Africa, extending north into East Africa. Found in savanna and woodland, particularly where there is rocky ground. 

Distribution of Shelley's 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, Kruger National Park 1959, [ Transvaal Museum]


Predators and parasites


Corms, bulbs, seeds and grains; insects in summer.


  • Nest consists of a scape in the ground, lined with grass and roots and placed among grass or bushes. 
  • Breeding season (laying dates)
    • Zimbabwe: August to June (peak September - October; March to April)
    • South Africa: peak October to January.
  • After the 3-8 eggs have been laid, they are incubated by the female for 20-22 days.
  • Chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and after 12 days are able to fly short distances, and after 5 weeks they can fly strongly. 


Too frequent burning (i.e. annual burning) in regions such as Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, results in the grassland becoming degregated and unsuitable for their survival. Burning during the breeding season results in destruction of nests and chicks through being burnt up or through being exposed to destruction by hail storms. 


  • 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