Ant-eating Chat

Myrmecocichla formicivora

Open, dry grasslands and shrublands, with numerous termite mounds, is the chosen habitat of the Ant-eating Chat, a common little bird that occurs only in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Botswana and is listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN, despite certain farming practices having a negative impact on their preferred nesting sites. Adults are around 17cm long and weigh between 40 and 60g.

As its name suggests, they are especially fond of ants and termites, but also consumes a wide variety of other invertebrates. They are social birds, staying in small groups made up of a breeding pair assisted in their duties by offspring from previous broods.

Ant-eating Chats sleep and nest in burrows in the ground, excavating their own nesting chambers in earthen walls or inside the burrows of aardvarks, porcupines, springhares, ground squirrels and mongooses. These chambers are lined with dry grass and roots. The breeding season spans spring and summer. Clutches consist of up to 7, but more usually about 3, eggs, that are incubated by the female for two weeks. Chicks leave the nest before they are three weeks old but stay dependent on their parents for another week or two. Thereafter they usually stay part of the group and assist with the rearing of subsequent broods.

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21 thoughts on “Ant-eating Chat

  1. JANE

    I’m with Kim… we would sure appreciate the ant-eating preferences of this species when ants lose interest in the garden. Once a year they seem to prefer the inside of homes in our neighborhood. I grow tired of vacuuming them up because I refuse to use poisons…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We have the same issue here; as soon as the dry season sets in the ants also move into our home. And we agree on the use of insecticide – we wouldn’t want to be responsible for poisoning anything else. We’ve found that a liberal sprinkling of baby powder or chalk around and over the nest opening usually makes the ants look for a new abode fairly quickly.

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      1. JANE

        I haven’t been able to actually find nests, they seem to come up from the concrete slab patio and sidewalks. However… if I do find the actual nest site, those ants better watch out for a blizzard of baby powder! Thank you for the tip! 🐜

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  2. John

    The beautiful bird looks very proud in its position. I thought a termite eating bird should have a longer and stronger beak. For termit bon is well just so hard, and their beak is not that long either. Just termites is food for many different animals, so it´s an important little insect. I have noticed that the most chicks around South Africa leave the nest early, maybe a must for them to avoid predators? Early develop?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      They are quite confident little birds, John, and indeed, Africa’s savannas would probably not even have existed if it weren’t for termites.

      Yes, with some exceptions, our birds do grow up extremely quickly. I suspect it has a lot to do with predation, as well as the harsh environment.

      PS: I also just found out that your newer blogposts aren’t being picked up in my reader – I will have to check what’s going on there!

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          I’ve always seen your new posts since I started following you, John – it is only in the last week or so it seems that this has happened. Not to worry, I will just have to make a plan to ensure I stay up to date with your blog!

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      1. Beth

        That is a good thing! I did not have any repellant or fire ant eradicator one day when I went out my front door and saw a mound right in front of my step, so I went back into the house, boiled a kettle of water and poured that on the hill. The next AM as I was leaving the house, the rascals had boiled up out of the ground and brought their dead like coffee grounds to the outside and were busy building the mound higher. I got the kettle again and did that for three or four mornings, and finally succeeded in driving them away or killing most of them. Unfortunately I killed the grass in my front yard too.

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