The Rufous-eared Warbler is eminently at home in semi-desert scrublands and grasslands and, despite the sparse vegetation of its chosen habitat, can be frustratingly difficult to get a clear view of. It is shy and feeds close to or at ground-level, being very rodent-like in its movements, and subsisting mainly on invertebrates with seeds and small berries making up only a small portion of its diet.
Rufous-eared Warblers are seen singly, in monogamous pairs or in small family groups. They may breed throughout the year, though there is a peak in nesting activity after the first rainfall in their arid haunts. Their nests are untidy oval-shaped balls built in thorny shrubs just slightly above the ground. Clutches usually contain 2-4 eggs, but sometimes as many as 7, and are incubated for 2 weeks. The chicks grow quickly, being fed by both parents, and leave the nest two weeks after hatching. Adults have a total length of about 15cm and weigh only about 10g.
This delightful little bird occurs in South Africa’s drier western half and can be found widely in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape and Free State Provinces. Beside South Africa, the Rufous-eared Warbler is also found in Botswana and Namibia, and the IUCN considers it to be of least concern.