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Cape Bunting - BirdForum Opus

Photo by GiGi
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, late summer 2006
Emberiza capensis


16cm long, mass is 17-27 g
Adult has a black crown, white supercilium and black-bordered white ear coverts. The upper parts are grey brown with some dark streaks, and the wing coverts are chestnut. The tail is darker chestnut, and the underparts are grey with a pale throat.
The sexes are similar, but females may have a buff tone to the white head markings.
Young birds have duller chestnut wings, a less distinct head pattern, and heavier streaking extending on to the breast and flanks.


Southern Africa: South Africa, Lesotho, western eSwatini, Namibia, south western Angola, eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and western Mozambique.



There are 10 or 11 subspecies; variation is mainly in the coloration of the back, mantle and under parts.

  • E. c. nebularum: South-western Angola
  • E. c. bradfieldi: Northern Namibia (Kaokoveld and highlands of Damaraland)
  • E. c. capensis: Namibia to south-western and western Cape Province
  • E. c. vinacea: Northern Cape Province (Kaap Plateau and n Asbestos Mountains)
  • E. c. cinnamomea: Cape Province to southern Transvaal and western Free State
  • E. c. limpopoensis: South-eastern Botswana to central and south-western Transvaal
  • E. c. smithersii: Mountains on eastern Zimbabwe/Mozambique border
  • E. c. plowesi: Plateau of southern Zimbabwe and adjacent north-eastern Botswana
  • E. c. reidi: Northern Lesotho, eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and adjacent Transvaal
  • E. c. basutoensis: Highlands of Lesotho to eastern Griqualand and KwaZulu-Natal

Vincent's Bunting was formerly considered a subspecies of this species.

An additional subspecies media is generally considered invalid[2].


Rocky slopes and dry weedy scrub, mainly in mountains in the north of its range.


The Cape Bunting is not gregarious, and is normally seen alone, in pairs or family groups.


It feeds on the ground on seeds, insects and spiders.


Its lined cup nest is built low in a shrub or tussock. The 2-4 eggs are cream and marked with red-brown and lilac.


  1. Clements, JF. 2009. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2009. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019.
  2. Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ & Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Robert's Birds of Southern Africa, 7th edition. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa. ISBN 0620340533

Recommended Citation

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