Tygerberg Nature Reserve conserves one of Cape Town’s most threatened types of vegetation, namely Swartland Shale Renosterveld. Some bird species are habitat specialist and are mainly restricted certain vegetation types. It is here on the Tygerberg that we can find the Karoo Scrub-Robin, which is endemic to the drier western regions of southern Africa. As the name implies, this bird is associated with arid areas and scrub vegetation as found in the Karoo, Strandveld and Renosterveld. Their habitat preferences discourage them from adopting lush suburban gardens as done by their cousins, the Cape Robin-Chats.
Camouflage plays an important role in this specie’s largely ground-dwelling life and the drab brown plumage tends to make one overlook this bird. However, what it lacks in appearance, it makes up in personality. Although quite wary at first, it becomes bold and inquisitive. If disturbed within its territory it will perch on the top of a bush and loudly scold the intruder. Its Afrikaans name “Slangverklikker” (snake detector) was bestowed upon it because of its habit of raising the alarm.
This Scrub-Robin can be identified by its uniform brown colour, pale throat and whitish eyebrow. When it flies away and lands, the white tips to the tail feathers are very conspicuous.
Pairs are territorial and build a cup-shaped nest at the base of a shrub or up to a meter high in a dense bush. Usually 2 to 4 eggs are laid, which hatch after 14 days. A diet of insects is fed to the chicks that will leave the nest after a further 14 days.