Find­ing the clos­est mate

Talk of the Town - - Opinion -

On a re­cent bird­ing tour, my clients and I ob­served a cho­ris­ter robin-chat car­ry­ing food at one of my bird­ing spots in Port Al­fred.

This par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual is quite set­tled in the area and can be quite tame. On one or two oc­ca­sions in the past, I have also seen a hy­brid red-capped/ cho­ris­ter robin-chat in the same gen­eral area. These hy­brids can be iden­ti­fied as birds look­ing like a pure red-capped robin-chat, but with a broad grey crown (in­stead of a nar­row ru­fous or grey­ish crown) and/or smudges on the ear coverts.

Very re­cently I saw this hy­brid in al­most the same spot as my most re­cent cho­ris­ter robin-chat sight­ing, also car­ry­ing food. The “pure” cho­ris­ter soon ap­peared and it seems these two birds have paired up. If they are suc­cess­ful in rear­ing young, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see what they look like when they ma­ture – although I think by time they are adult birds, they will be long gone and well out of the ter­ri­tory.

One of the main rea­sons I think these robin-chats hy­bridise, is that the red-capped’s dis­tri­bu­tion range ends here in our area. See­ing as it is on the very edge of the range, they are lo­cally scarce and often bat­tle to find a mate of their own species. So, what to do? Find the next best thing, its clos­est rel­a­tive . . . the cho­ris­ter robin-chat, which is far more com­mon in our area.

Now here is some­thing in­ter­est­ing. The cho­ris­ter and red-capped robin-chats each have their own con­tact call. The cho­ris­ter’s usual con­tact whis­tle is a clean “teu, toy”, as can be heard at

The (pure) red-capped robin-cat’s con­tact call, is more of a trilling, “tr­ree, tr­roo” call, as heard at

At this par­tic­u­lar spot where I have seen both birds, I have heard them im­i­tat­ing each other’s con­tact call!

Well, that’s it for now. Please re­mem­ber that I am avail­able for lo­cal bird­ing tours. You can con­tact me on 072-314-0069 for more in­for­ma­tion. Un­til next time, en­joy your bird­ing!

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