Of all the ‘specials’ found within the Namibian bird list this highly specialised inhabitant of the boulder-strewn slopes and rocky outcrops of the Erongo and Waterberg Mountain is for me the most captivating and entertaining.

Recorded for the first time in 1928 this small, fairly rotund gamebird, with a relatively small head and disproportionately large beak, was named after Gustav Hartlaub (1814-1900), who practised ornithology in West Africa.

                                  Hartlaub’s Spurfowl  (Male)                                               Hartlaub’s Spurfowl  (Female)

Due to its highly localised pattern of distribution linked to hilly and mountainous regions of sandstone and granitic origin, flanked by mixed grassland and dense scrub, this cryptic species requires a certain amount of effort when it comes to securing a good sighting or photographic shot.

Best time of year is before the onset of the cool winter weather, when the birds are most vocal, and the best time of day is just before sunrise. As such forward planning is essential to ensure success, and an early start to the day even more important, as you clamber up the rocky slopes to a suitable vantage point before dawn.

With luck, and good local input as to where to go, you should be in position with the sun behind you to view the opening liquid duet of the day, as closely bonded birds proclaim their territorial rights from the top of a prominent boulder. Such vocal activity at sunrise, made up of fast, often-repeated antiphonal duets, only lasts for a relatively short period of time, following which the pair descend into the surrounding scrub and scattered boulders for the rest of the day.

Originally classified as a ‘francolin’ the species has recently been listed in the ‘spurfowl’ category but, as you will notice from the images of both sexes, they lack the vicious spurs of the other francolin species, and appear to avoid physical contact with neighbouring pairs when defending territory or engaging in boundary disputes.

So when next you are birding in the mountains of Northern Namibia make the effort to clamber up to the cliff top before dawn, if you’re in the right habitat, to get your birding day off to a really great start with a sighting of this sought after Namibian special!


  1. Tanya Graham says:

    This is a very interesting article, thank you so much for the regular updates. I love your new blog site. Well done Marie-Louise and Patrick.! 🙂

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