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Fiscal Flycatcher - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Max Holdt
Kleinmond, near Cape Town, South Africa, December 2004
Melaenornis silens

Sigelus silens


17-20 cm
Adult male: Black above and greyish white below (breast and flanks darker than throat and belly) with white wing patches and white sides to the tail.
Adult female: Dark grey-brown, not black, above and browner below.

The juvenile is like the female but duller and with brown spots and scalloping above and below.

Photo by leon
Rietvleidam, Pretoria, South Africa, June 2004

Similar Species

The male can be confused with the Common Fiscal, but the shrike has a heavy, hooked bill, a white patch on the shoulder rather than the lower wing, and has no white on its longer tail.

The Fiscal Flycatcher is larger than the male Collared Flycatcher, which has a white collar and lacks white wing panels.


Southern Africa: South Africa, eSwatini, and south-eastern Botswana; limited distribution in southern Mozambique, the lowlands of Lesotho, and the extreme south of Zimbabwe.


This is a monotypic species[1].

Some authorities[2] recognise subspecies lawsoni from North-West Province, north-western Northern Cape Province, extreme western Free State Province (South Africa), and south-eastern Botswana; It is slightly buffy and paler below than the nominate race.

Photo by CollinBax
NP RSA, January 2012

Formerly placed in the genus Sigelus.


Most common in moist and semi-arid lowland grasslands and savanna, valley bushveld and fynbos. The species favours fairly open vegetation, with some trees or shrubs as perches.



The diet consists of insects, often taken in flight and occasionally joins mixed-species foraging flocks. Most foraging is conducted from a perch, often on the top of a bush or small tree, or on a fence, powerline or telephone line.


They build an open cup nest from thin stems and other plant material and lined with plant down. It is placed in a dense bush or tree up to 6 m above the ground. Parasitised by the Jacobin Cuckoo.


The song is a weak chittering, and the alarm call is tssisk.

In Culture

Other Names

German: Würgerschnäpper; Afrikaans: Fiskaalvlieëvanger


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533

Recommended Citation

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