Although usually silent, they sometimes communicate with some very distinctive sounds: females, for instance, utter a throaty clicking sound when tending their calves; a ram, acting sentry, will let out a resonant, warning bark when danger threatens, sending the rest of the herd fleeing for safety; a calf, separated from its mother, will bleat pitifully. Nyala are mixed grazer-browsers, and eat leaves, twigs, flowers and fruits from a wide variety of plants, as well as grass, particularly after rain. In spite of the fact that baboons have been known to eat nyala young, nyala often associate with them, picking up the remains of wild fruit, berries and leaves discarded by the baboons on foraging expeditions.
Older rams can often be seen browsing among herds of other antelope, especially impala. A single calf is born, usually in the cover of a thicket. The calf hides in the grass for about 18 days, after which it joins the herd.
Their name originates from the Zulu name inxala. Female nyala are a characteristic rusty red, with white stripes down their sides. Nyala are gregarious, and are normally found in small groups of two or three, although they sometimes form herds of up to 30: these herds are transient in nature, and no lasting bonds are formed.
Often these larger groupings are formed due to preferred feeding grounds: in addition, it is characteristic of bovids that normally frequent cover to form larger groups when on open ground, as this provides greater protection from predators. They are not territorial, and occupy overlapping home ranges.