The Cape Robin-Chat, Cossypha caffra, is a small passerine bird of the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae.
A song-filled, perky, shy, yet curious bird that bears an orange throat and a striking white speculum, which separates the blackish lores and ear coverts from the crown and has adapted well to living alongside humans in their gardens.
The robin-chats are not really robins. The name ‘robin’ comes from a colonial era where the British named almost all red or orange breasted birds after their Robin Redbreast, Erithacus rubecula. In India and Africa, the ‘robin’ is in fact a chat; in North America it is called a thrush; whereas in New Zealand and Australia robins are regarded members of the flycatcher family. The Cape Robin-Chat is called Cossypha caffra in South Africa.
The Cape Robin-Chat is around 16–17 cm from head to tail; and weighs around 25–34 g and will roost alone up to three metres above ground in dense vegetation cover. The nests are deep cut nests, usually situated on or close to the ground, in hollow stumps or on earth banks, and it is a preferred host of the Red-Chested Cuckoo.
It has a harsh, low alarm note that consists of three syllables “wa-dur-dra”. The song consists of variable short channels of musical notes that always start with low slurred whistle cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet; the singing is usually at its peek at dusk and dawn. The Cape Robin-Chat can mimic a large array of other bird species, including cuckoos, mouse birds, bulbuls, thrushes, shrikes, starlings, sunbirds, white-eyes, canaries and buntings. Some chats have been recorded mimicking the sounds of hooting cars.
The Cape Robin-Chat feeds on ground level, mostly in and under bushes, but will from time-to-time gather bark and foliage in tall trees. It is an insectivore, but also feeds on other invertebrates including spiders, centipedes and earthworms. It may add tiny frogs and reptiles to its diet. Some species of the robin-chats, especially the Chorister and Red-Capped Robin-Chats, eat berries as well.
The Robin-chats lay between one and three eggs, with the exception being the Red-Capped Robin-Chat, which will lay about four eggs in one clutch. The breeding season in Western Cape is normally from July to December. Some pairs of the Robin-Chats will raise two broods in one season.
The incubation process, which is carried out by the females, lasts about two weeks, and the chicks obtain feathers about two to three weeks after hatching. Both parents play a part in feeding the young for about six weeks in total, and both parents will defend the nest fiercely, attacking snakes such as boomslang or Cape cobras. They have adapted to using other birds such as crows to detect approaching dangers and also will rely on these birds in fighting off predators such as owls.
Cape Robin-Chats are monogamous, having one partner for life unless the other partner dies, in which event the remaining party will seek out new mate. They mate and maintain a territory for life. Both the male and female take on the task of feeding the young, however it rests with the female to undergo the incubation process.
Cape Robin-Chats are long lived, with the oldest having been recorded to have lived up to 17 years. As life time partners, a pair of Cape Robin-Chats will defend their territory together and will advertise it by singing loudly. The female will also sing in the absence of a male.
And you thought they were just pretty!
Enjoy these wonderful Cape Robin-Chat close-ups