Familiar Chat

Cercomela familiaris

The confiding little Familiar Chat occurs in open, often dry, habitats, usually in hilly or rocky areas. It is also very common around rural human settlements. They feed mainly on flies, but will also consume other insects, fruits, seeds, and human scraps. Their Afrikaans name “spekvreter” (meaning “bacon eater”) comes from their habit of eating the fat used to grease the axles of ox wagons in the old days. They have the curious habit of flicking their wings every time they’ve moved from one spot to another. Adults weigh between 14 and 26g, and grow to 15cm in length.

Familiar Chats breed almost throughout the year (though there is a peak in spring and summer in breeding activity). The nest is a cup built of plant material and lined with fur and feathers, placed in holes in trees or in the ground or crevices in rocks or buildings. Clutches contain 2-4 eggs, incubated for 2 weeks, with the chicks fledging at about the same age. They usually move around singly, in pairs or in small family groups of up to 6 birds at the end of the breeding season.

The Familiar Chat has a wide, if patchy, distribution in the more open areas of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching from the Sahel in west Africa eastwards to Ethiopia, then south to southern Africa and again up the west coast to Angola. The IUCN considers it of least concern. It occurs commonly all over South Africa.

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