Cercomela sordida


Cercomela is a genus of small passerine bird of the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae. It comprises nine species of chats.


These are typically birds of open dry habitats such as open scrub, stony or rocky areas and short grassland. The Familiar and Indian Chats are often found near human habitation.

This is a mainly African group, although the Blackstart’s range also extends just into the Middle East, and the Indian Chat is a south Asian species.

The typical Cercomela plumage is fairly plain grey or brown upperparts and paler underparts. The tail pattern is often distinctive, and may be useful in distinguishing the African species. The long legs and feet are black and the bill is short and straight. The sexes are similar in plumage.

These are terrestrial birds, most nesting on or near the ground, and laying up to four eggs in a cup nest; a few Cercomela species use rock crevices or walls as nest sites.

These birds are insectivores, and forage on the ground for their prey.

Most species have vocalisations including typical chat "chak-chak" or similar calls.

Most Cercomela chats are common within their ranges, but insufficient data exists to determine the status of the Sombre Chat in Ethiopia.

Species in taxonomic order


  • Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1
  • Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp, Birds of India ISBN 0-691-04910-6

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