Black scrub-robin -- 黑薮鸲 (Cercotrichas podobe)

Black scrub-robin on the ground
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Black scrub-robin fact file

Black scrub-robin description

GenusCercotrichas (1)

The black scrub-robin (Cercotrichas podobe) is a long-legged bird with almost entirely greyish-black plumage and a distinctly long tail, which is often held cocked (2). The beak and legs are also black, although the wings may show some reddish-brown, while the undersides of the tail feathers have broad white tips, and the undertail-coverts are marked with white chevrons (2). The male black scrub-robin is slightly larger than the female, but the sexes are otherwise similar in appearance. Juveniles are browner in colour than the adults and have less conspicuous white tail tips (2).

Two subspecies of black scrub-robin are recognised: Cercotrichas podobe podobe and Cercotrichas podobe melanoptera, the latter lacking any reddish-brown in the wings. Forms intermediate between the two may occur in parts of the species’ range (2). The calls of the black scrub-robin are described as a hoarse squeak and a liquid chatter, while its song consists of a series of short, variable and far-carrying phrases, each starting with a sweet falling note (often with a trill) and ending with a scratchy falling note. A babbling mixture of sweet, scratchy, fluty and squeaky notes is also sometimes given (2).

Also known as
black bush robin, black bush-chat, black bush-robin, black scrub robin.
Turdus podobe.
Merle podobé.
Length: 18 - 20 cm (2)
24 - 27 g (2)

Black scrub-robin biology

Usually foraging on the ground or in low bushes, the black scrub-robin often probes seemingly bare sand or soil under bushes for food. Little information is available on the diet of this species (2), but like other members of the Muscicapidae family it probably feeds on insects, and perhaps also some fruit (4).

The breeding season of the black scrub-robin varies with location, ranging from February to July in Senegal, from May to August in Ethiopia, and from March to July in the Arabian Peninsula (2). The nest is built around one to two metres above the ground, in a small palm, bush or tree, or in a crevice in a tree trunk or a building. Constructed from dry grass, palm fibres, twigs and small roots, it is a flat, ragged cup shape, lined with hair, wool and fine grass. Between two and four eggs are laid, and are pale greenish to greenish-grey in colour, with grey, olive or reddish-brown speckles. Little else is known about the breeding biology of this species (2).


Black scrub-robin range

The black scrub-robin occurs across North Africa and into the Arabian Peninsula (3). C. p. podobe occurs from southern Mauritania and northern Senegal, east to northeast Sudan, northern Ethiopia and western Arabia, while C. p. melanoptera is found in the western, central and southern Arabian Peninsula (2). This species may also be a winter visitor to Somalia (2) and has been recorded as a vagrant in Egypt, Jordan and the eastern Arabian Peninsula (3).


Black scrub-robin habitat

The black scrub-robin inhabits arid desert, semi-desert and dry savanna with scattered shrubs, bushes or palm trees (2) (3), typically at elevations below 1,500 metres (2).


Black scrub-robin status

The black scrub-robin is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Black scrub-robin threats

The black scrub-robin is a widespread and relatively common species, and is not currently considered at risk of extinction (3). It is believed to have extended its range into the northern and eastern Arabian Peninsula in recent decades, apparently as a result of changing agricultural practices, and it has also now become established in Israel (2) (5).


Black scrub-robin conservation

There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for this widespread species.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about the black scrub-robin, see:



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Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Found occasionally outside normal range.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (September, 2010)
  4. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Roll, U., Dayan, T. and Simberloff, D. (2008) Non-indigenous terrestrial vertebrates in Israel and adjacent areas. Biological Invasions, 10: 659-672.

Image credit

Black scrub-robin on the ground  
Black scrub-robin on the ground

© Thomas Krumenacker

Thomas Krumenacker


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