Eat­ing ants be­tween chats

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HELLO ev­ery­body! I trust you all had a good Easter break.

This week we are go­ing to look at a bird that can be passed off as some­what dull and bor­ing at a glance, but ac­tu­ally has some pretty fea­tures as you watch it. The bird I’m talk­ing about is the ant-eat­ing chat.

This bird is a lo­cally com­mon res­i­dent of open ar­eas. It is found in the grass­land ar­eas here at the coast, although its oc­cur­rence is rather patchy, be­ing found more in some ar­eas than oth­ers. I see very few (if any) around Port Al­fred it­self, yet near Bok­nes and Can­non Rocks they are quite plen­ti­ful. The fur­ther in­land one goes, the more com­mon they are, but in Ka­roo flats and shrub­land, rather than grassy ar­eas.

It is quite eas­ily iden­ti­fied by its medium size, of­ten up­right stance and over­all brown coloura­tion, yet slightly “scaly” in ap­pear­ance. The males are slightly darker than the fe­males and have a small white patch on the shoul­der, which is un­for­tu­nately of­ten hid­den. In flight, the ant-eat­ing chat is recog­nised by its flut­ter­ing flight and very dis­tinc­tive white tips to the wings.

They are of­ten seen in small groups, where they perch con­spic­u­ously on a low bush or anthill. They feed on ants and ter­mites, plus what­ever other in­sects it can find. They nest in bur­rows, which they dig out them­selves. The call is a sin­gle, short whis­tle, but the song is quite a com­plex, slow, low se­ries of war­bles.

Well, folks, that's all for this week. Just to re­mind you, I am avail­able for bird­watch­ing tours in the Port Al­fred area. You can con­tact me on 072-314-0069. Un­til we “chat” (okay, chirp) again, watch those ants!

Pic­ture: TIM COCKCROFT

NOT ALL DRAB: The ant-eat­ing chat looks dull and bor­ing at a glance but has pretty fea­tures like dis­tinc­tive white wingtips in flight

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