Sarothruridae – Flufftails

Red-chested Flufftail Sarothrura rufa ©Dubi Shapiro Website

The Sarothruridae is a family of small to medium sized ground-living birds found in Madagascar and sub-Saharan Africa. The family contains just 2 genera. Until recently the two genera were treated as separate families.

They are highly secretive and seldom observed. Two species, the Buff-spotted Flufftail and the White-spotted Flufftail, are inhabitants of dense forests, while the remaining species are found in deep grasslands and marshes. One species, the Streaky-breasted Flufftail, is known to be migratory. It is uncertain whether other species are as well; the White-winged Flufftail may breed in Ethiopia and winter in South Africa but this is not known for certain.

The breeding behaviour of the flufftails has not been observed for many species, although some certainly breed in the wet season. All species are highly vocal during the breeding season, with repertoires including duets. In the Madagascar Flufftail the courtship behaviour consists of duetting, nest building (which is undertaken by the male), nest visits by the female, and copulation. Flufftails build domed nests; the nest of the Madagascar Flufftail is positioned high above the ground in vines, and the nest of the White-winged Flufftail is placed in reeds over waterlogged ground. The eggs of all the species that have been studied are white, unlike most rails. The chicks are covered in black down at birth and have a slightly coloured bill; adult plumage is quickly attained in most species. Both parents care for the chicks.

According to the IOC there are 12 species in two genera of sarothruridae which are:

Grey-throated Rail Canirallus oculeus
Madagascan Wood Rail Canirallus kioloides
Tsingy Wood Rail Canirallus beankaensis

White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra
Buff-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura elegans
Red-chested Flufftail Sarothrura rufa
Chestnut-headed Flufftail Sarothrura lugens
Streaky-breasted Flufftail Sarothrura boehmi
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis
Madagascan Flufftail Sarothrura insularis
White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi
Slender-billed Flufftail Sarothrura watersi

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 12

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