Under construction

This section is still under construction! Although mostly functional, there is still plenty of information missing and many images are waiting to be added. We are working as quickly as we can...

Cape Wagtail
(Motacilla capensis)

Cape Wagtail

General description

The cape wagtail is a rather drab coloured wagtail with olive grey upperparts and face with a buff supercilium and dark lores. The underparts are creamy white and may show a faint pinkish wash on the lower breast and belly.

The breast band is dusky and the sides of the breast and the flanks are olive-grey.

The brownish black wings have pale edges to the feathers and the tail is blackish with the two outer tail feathers being white.

The juveniles are similar to the adults but browner above and yellower below.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Motacilla capensis

Common names:
Cape Wagtail (English)
Gewone Kwikkie (Afrikaans)

Roberts VII english name:
Cape Wagtail

Roberts VII scientific name:
Motacilla capensis

Wagtails and Pipits (Motacillidae)

Further information



The Cape Wagtail's main food is invertebrates. Foraging is mainly on the ground or in shallow water, often feeding on animals that are already dead.

It has been recorded taking insects attracted to lights in the early morning or caught in car radiators.

Other than insects it has been recorded as eating fiddler crabs, sandhoppers, snails, ticks, tadpoles, small fish, small chameleons and human food.

The Cape wagtail is a monogamous, territorial solitary nester and breeding pairs stay together over a number of breeding seasons. Like many territorial birds the males often fiercely attack their own reflection in mirrors or windows. The nest is built by both sexes and consists of a cup made of a wide range of materials, both natural and artificial, which is lined with hair, rootlets, wool and feathers.

The nest is situated in a recess within a steep bank, tree, bush or frequently sited in a man-made site, such as a hole in a wall, pot plant or bridge. It breeds all year round but, egg-laying peaks from July until December.

One to five eggs are laid, which both sexes incubate for 13–15 days.

Once hatched the chicks are fed by both parents, until they leave the nest after 14–18 days.

Once fledged they adults continue to feed them for another 20–25 days, and the young become fully independent after 44 days from fledging, occasionally up to 60 days.

Natural distribution:
Cape wagtails are found in eastern and southern Africa from Uganda, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya, through Zambia and Angola to southern Africa, south to the Western Cape and the Cape of Good Hope.

Cape wagtails can be found in almost any habitat that has open ground adjacent to water, and also along the rocky coastline, in farms, villages, cultivated land, parks, gardens and urban centres.

In east Africa it is generally found above 2,000m in altitude.

It has been recorded as host of the following brood parasites: Diderick Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo and Levaillant's Cuckoo.

Predators include the Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk as well as cats and rats.

User notes & lists

You need to be a registered user in order to create bird lists and notes. If you have already registered, then please log in now, otherwise, register here. It will only take a moment and we won't pass your information on to anyone else.

You can then use this section to create lists of your own birds in your garden, or a list of favourite birds or simply a wish list

No one has ever become poor by giving

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.


  ·   Privacy policy  ·   Sitemap  ·   © African Legacy
African Legacy is an accredited Non-profit Organisation (Reg no. 179-829 NPO)