Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus Scientific name definitions

Krista N. Oswald
Version: 2.0 — Published May 17, 2021


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The Cape Rockjumper is found solely in South Africa’s mountain fynbos within the Cape Fold Mountains (31). Areas of mountain fynbos extend from ca 300 km north of the Cape Peninsula in the Western Cape, to ca100 km west of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. Patches of mountain fynbos are separated from one another by areas of Lowland fynbos and Albany Thicket, but also by stretches of semi-arid karoo, creating continental “sky islands” — high elevation habitats separated by ecologically distinct lowland habitat (10).

Primarily occurs on slopes and peaks more than 800 m above sea level, although there is a population that exists at low elevation in the Overberg east of Cape Town; the habitat at this site is consistent with mountain fynbos vegetation and climate despite its lower elevation. It is found on those Cape Fold Mountains that do not have tall, old-growth, Proteaceae. There are thus a few mountains (mostly south and east) within the Cape Fold range that do not have the Cape Rockjumper despite seemingly being the appropriate habitat and being within expected distribution (31). For example, as of 2021 the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountains are both fynbos mountains of an appropriate location and altitude to have Cape Rockjumper populations, but none have been recorded there in recent years — possibly due to fire suppression and thus thicker vegetation (SABAP2). Similarly, while the Cape Rockjumper was recorded in the Groot-Winterhoek mountains in the Eastern Cape in 2018, the vegetation was thicker than where they are generally seen, and they were no longer present in 2019 (likely due to even-thicker vegetation, KNO, personal observations).

While their distribution is often considered to be the 90,000 km2 of the fynbos region, their actual distribution is more likely to be in the range of the <10,000 km2 that consists of rocky, more open mountain fynbos (31). This smaller realized distribution (and the resulting smaller estimated population size) was in part responsible for the reassessment of the Cape Rockjumper as Near Threatened (see Conservation and Management).

Historical Changes to the Distribution

There is very little information on historic changes in distribution. It does not occur in the south and eastern extremes of its habitat; while habitat and range suggest the Cape Rockjumper could be found on Table Mountain or on Lady Slipper (near Port Elizabeth), no Rockjumpers have been seen or reported on these mountains in recent years (31).

Distribution of the Cape Rockjumber
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Cape Rockjumber

Recommended Citation

Oswald, K. N. (2021). Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (T. S. Schulenberg and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rufroc1.02