Bird of the Week – Week 122 – Ant-eating chat

The Ant-eating chat is endemic to the southern African region and within the region is fairly widespread, although it is absent from most of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland in the east and from the Namib Desert in the west. Their preferred habitat includes areas of open grassland and savanna and they are fairly common throughout the semi-desert of the Kalahari. They are usually found in pairs or in small groups of less than six birds.

Ant-eating chat

Adults are approximately 18 cm in length and the males are slightly larger than the females. Although the sexes are similar in plumage, being a dark brown overall, the females are a little lighter in colour and the males have a white shoulder patch which is not always visible. Eyes are dark brown; bill, legs and feet are black.

Ant-eating chat

As their common name would suggest, the Ant-eating chat feeds mainly on ants, but also includes termites and other insects in its diet. Although it feeds mainly on the ground, insects such as butterflies, bees and wasps may be hawked from the air.

The call of the Ant-eating chat is a plaintive “peeeeek” and the song, which may include snatches of mimicry of other bird calls, is a pleasant “tee-a you, tee-a you” uttered in flight or from a prominent perch.

Ant-eating chat

The Ant-eating chat is monogamous and excavates a tunnel, often in the roof of an Aardvark burrow, in which a cup-shaped nest of dry grass and roots is constructed. The female lays a clutch of up to seven white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about fifteen days.

Ant eating chat

The scientific binomial for the Ant-eating chat is Myrmecocichla formicivora; Myrmecocichla from the Greek for an “ant chat” and formicivora from the Latin for “ant-eating”. Thus we have an ant-eating ant chat which is as close to the common name as makes no difference.

Ant-eating chat