Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus)

Cover image of Double-banded Courser by Desire Darling – Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape – BirdPix No. 52169


The Double-banded Courser is a small, pale coloured species. Its most distinctive feature is the two narrow black bands across the breast, which are diagnostic. The undersides are pale sandy or cream coloured. The upper sides are sandy brown with white edging to the feathers, giving a scaled appearance. The neck is slightly darker with fine vertical streaking. The crown is plain and there is a prominent cream-coloured supercilium. The long legs are pale whitish.

The sexes are alike.

Double-banded Courser - identification
Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – Masilonyana Local Municipality, Free State
Photo by Janet du Plooy

In flight shows distinctive rust-coloured secondaries and inner primaries and white uppertail coverts (see the photograph below).

Juveniles are similar to the adults but have chestnut breastbands and a less well-defined supercilium.

Rhinoptilus africanus in flight
In flight, this courser shows distinctive rust-coloured secondaries and inner primaries as well as white upper tail coverts.
Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – Carnarvon district, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett


The Double-banded courser is widespread and found in three separate populations, in southern Africa, East Africa and north-east Africa. In South Africa it occurs mainly in the arid western and central regions.

SABAP2 distribution map for Double-banded Courser
SABAP2 distribution map for Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – January 2023. Details for map interpretation can be found here.


This is a species of flat plains with low, sparse vegetation and bare open areas. It is often found in stony places and dry pans. It is partial to pale calcrete gravel and is most numerous in Nama Karoo shrublands, arid grasslands and the Kalahari. The species also occurs in sparse Mopane scrub in northern Botswana and Namibia.

Rhinoptilus africanus
Frequents open, bare patches in arid areas.
Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – Carnarvon district, Northern Cape
Photo by Sybrand Venter


The Double-banded Courser feeds on a range of insects and is especially fond of Harvester Termites. It forages by pecking at the ground after running a short distance. This species may be found solitarily, in pairs or in small groups of three to four birds.

Breeding may take place at anytime of the year. One egg is laid per clutch, either in a shallow scrape on directly on the substrate. The nest site is often lined with small stones, sheep or antelope droppings or bits of dried plant matter.

nest of Rhinoptilus africanus
The egg is well camouflaged among stones and pebbles
Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – Steytlerville District, Eastern Cape
Photo by Dave Brown

The egg is incubated by both parents for 26 to 27 days. Chicks are known to fledge five to six weeks after hatching. They are fed by both parents.

The Double-banded Courser is known to be highly nomadic throughout its range and it appears to be most numerous during dry conditions.

Double-banded Courser
Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – Middelburg, Eastern Cape
Photo by Tino Herselman

Further Resources

Species text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

The use of photographs by Dave Brown, Desire Darling, Janet du Plooy, Sybrand Venter and Tino Herselman is acknowledged.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

Other common names: Dubbelbanddrawwertjie (Afrikaans): Segolagola (Tswana); Dubbelbandrenvogel (Dutch); Courvite à double collier (French); Doppelband-Rennvogel (German).

Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Double-banded Courser Rhinoptilus africanus. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

Rhinoptilus africanus
Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) – Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape
Photo by Desire Darling

Bird identificationbirding

Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!