The beautiful little Chinspot batis is a fairly common bird, found throughout large parts of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. In the southern Africa region it is found in the wetter west and north of the region, but is absent from the very dry regions. It enjoys a wide variety of habitats, ranging from dry forests to tropical moist forests and even fairly dry savannah.
Although it is quite similar to other species of batis; in southern Africa its range is fairly exclusive, with not a lot of overlap with similar species, and this, together with its distinctive call, aids in its identification. The males and females are similar in size, with a length of approximately 13 cm, but have quite different markings. The males have a distinct and quite broad black bib. Females have a chestnut-coloured breast band and have a chestnut-coloured chinspot that gives the species its name. Both sexes have grey upperparts; black and white wingbars; wide black eye-stripes and white eyebrows. Bills, legs and feet are black; eyes are yellow.
The Chinspot batis is insectivorous and feeds mainly on insects and spiders that it gleans from the surface of leaves, but it may fly forth from its perch and hawk insects from the air. A pair of birds is generally found together, although small groups are sometimes seen.
The call of the Chinspot batis is a great aid in identifying the little bird, and consists of three clear notes that are often represented as “Three blind mice“.
The Chinspot batis is monogamous and builds a small cup-shaped nest of plant material, often bound together with spider webs and located on a horizontal branch or in the fork of the branches of a large tree. Lichens may be used to camouflage the nest. The female lays a small clutch of two or three heavily blotched eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 16 days.
The scientific binomial for the Chinspot batis is Batis molitor; Batis being a bird mentioned by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, but not positively identified as any particular bird, and molitor from the Latin for a “miller”, apparently a reference to the bird’s call that is likened to stones rubbing together.