Tag Archives: Swartpiek

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.