Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii)

Cover image by Johan van Rooyen – Near Witsand, Western Cape – BirdPix No. 113724 Karoo Korhaan


The Karoo Korhaan is relatively inconspicuous and is well camouflaged against the dry landscapes of its preferred habitat.

Identification guide to Karoo Korhaan
Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) – Karoo National Park, Western Cape
Photo by JC van Rensburg

Overall colouration is sandy grey-brown. The underparts are uniform grey-brown. The mantle, scapulars and wing coverts are indistinctly mottled with diffuse grey, buff and black blotches.

The head and neck carry the most distinctive markings. There is a small black patch on the nape and a more prominent black patch on the throat. The face is plain grey-brown and unmarked. The bill is dark greyish with a pale pink base.

The sexes are similar but males are slightly larger and have more extensive black on the throat, extending onto the fore-neck.

Juveniles resemble the adults but have scattered whitish blotches on the body, head and neck. The undersides are paler with some indistinct darker barring.

Karoo Korhaan in flight
The Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) shows contrasting black and buff wing markings. 
Karoo-Gariep Nature Reserve, Northern Cape
Photo by Jon Blanco


The Karoo Korhaan varies from common to uncommon, depending on location. It is endemic to Southern Africa and is confined to western South Africa and Southern Namibia.

The Karoo Korhaan is not considered threatened. It is thought that this species has increased in abundance in the Karoo owing to livestock grazing practices, as it favours disturbed conditions. The South African population has been estimated at hundreds of thousands of individuals.

SABAP2 distributiom map for Karoo Korhaan
SABAP2 distribution map for Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) – March 2023. Details for map interpretation can be found here.


The Karoo Korhaan occurs in dwarf shrublands on the open plains of the semi-arid Karoo. It favours stony ground in flat to undulating terrain. Within this region it is most common throughout the Nama Karoo. It is also common in the Grassy Karoo ecotone between the grassland and Karoo biomes. It is less common in, and is absent from large areas of, the winter-rainfall Succulent Karoo. It has also colonised the planted pastures and cereal croplands along the southern coast of the Western Cape in the fynbos biome. This is the only region where it is found outside karroid vegetation.

Eupodotis vigorsii in habitat
Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) – Melk Houte Bosch, Western Cape
Photo by Keir Lynch


Usually encountered in pairs, occasionally in groups of three to five birds, and very rarely solitarily. the Karoo Korhaan is easily overlooked due to its cryptic plumage. This is compensated for by its loud and frequent vocalizations, which are somewhat frog-like.

It is a sedentary resident. Karoo Korhaans are more conspicuous during the winter months due to increased activity and sparser vegetation at this time. Breeding birds become very secretive during the summer months.

Forages by walking and pecking on or close to the ground. Consumes a range of invertebrates (mainly insects and arachnids), small reptiles and a much vegetable matter (seeds, pods, fruits, flowers, leaves and bulbs).

Koroo Korhaan in the karoo
Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) – Carnarvon district, Northern Cape
Photo by Sybrand Venter

Drinks in the mornings and evenings when water is available.

The Karoo Korhaan is monogamous, breeding in pairs. The occasional presence of extended family groups may indicate some cooperative breeding. They are territorial and groups defend their territories throughout the year. Territorial males actively fight by flapping their wings and kicking each other.

Eupodotis vigorsii pair
Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) – Karoo National Park, Western Cape
Photo by Desire Darling

Breeding has been recorded from July to April but mostly takes place between October and March during the summer months.

A single egg is laid per clutch. No true nest is constructed and the egg is laid in a shallow scrape directly on the ground. The site is sometimes lined with a ring of stones or pebbles.

Incubation duties are performed entirely by the female, although the male remains nearby. Chicks are highly precocial and the female and chick join up with the male shortly after hatching.

Further Resources

This species text is adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

The use of photographs by Alan Collett, Desire Darling, Johan Van Rooyen, Rick Nuttall and Tino Herselman is acknowledged.

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

Other common names: Vaalkorhaan (Afrikaans); Zwartkintrap (Dutch); Outarde de Vigors (French); Namatrappe (German); Abetarda do Karoo (Portuguese).

Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii). Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2023/03/07/karoo-korhaan-eupodotis-vigorsii/

Bird identificationbirding

Eupodotis vigorsii Karoo Korhaan
Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii) – Karoo National Park, Western Cape
Photo by Desire Darling
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!