The Ant-eating Chat, also known as the Southern Anteater-Chat and Myrmecocichla formicivora, is a bird species that is categorized under the Muscicapidae or Old World Flycatcher family.
The Old World Flycatchers are small passerine birds that are common in Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are small arboreal insectivores known to take their prey on the wing. This family has 324 species, including the White-Eyes Slaty Flycatcher, Silverbird, Madagascar Magpie-Robin, Forest Flycatchers, and Amber Mountain Rock Thrush.
The Ant-eating Chat is a bird species that is endemic and widely distributed across the southern part of the African continent. They frequent habitats that have lush trees, shrubs, and grass.
They are relatively common across the southern part of Africa; therefore, this bird species is not deemed endangered or threatened. With this information, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized this bird species as Least Concern.
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: M. formicivora
The physical characteristics of Ant-eating Chat
This bird species is sexually dimorphic, meaning both sexes have different physical attributes aside from their sex organs. The male Ant-eating Chat has black plumage, legs, toes, and beak, making it a conspicuous species in a lush and green forest or shrubland.
Meanwhile, a female Ant-eating Chat has a dark brown plumage. It has greyish-brown legs and toes. Its tail is darker than the color of its plumage. Its beak is also greyish-brown in color, but is significantly lighter than its legs.
An adult Ant-eating Chat can grow for up to 18 cm and weigh from 35-51 grams.
An adult Ant-eating Chat has an upright posture. Despite having short round wings, this bird is a fast flier. It exposes bold white patches located in the outer webs of its primary feathers when in flight, making the bird a beautiful sight to see up high.
The distribution and habitat of Ant-eating Chats
As mentioned before, this bird species is endemic to the southern part of Africa, particularly in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia. Swaziland, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. You cannot find Ant-eating Chats in Mozambique.
Ant-eating Chats prefer residing in open grasslands, grassy hills, semi-arid shrublands, arid savannas, subtropical dry shrublands, tropical dry shrublands, and dry lowland grasslands. Generally, they frequent to places where insects such as ants and termite mounds are abundant.
The behavior of Ant-eating Chats
The Ant-eating Chats are known for their whistles, grating notes, and clucks. These birds can also imitate the sounds of other species.
Ant-eating Chats are known as facultative cooperative breeders, meaning that juveniles from the latest breeding season help the breeding pair of Ant-eating Chats. These birds create a bowl-shaped nest out of roots, dry grass, and twigs placed in a chamber at the end of a burrow that was excavated by the birds. The male and female Ant-eating Chats usually spend 8-10 days to dig into a burrow, steam bank, sand quarry, or sand wall.
The egg-laying season takes place from August to March that peaks from October to November. A female Ant-eating Chat usually lays an average of 3 eggs, but it can increase to 7 eggs. These eggs are then incubated solely by the female Ant-eating Chat for 14-15 days. After the incubation period and the eggs are finally hatched, the chicks will be fed by their parents for 15-16 days. After this period, the chicks will leave the nest and live on their own. Although sometimes, some chicks will remain dependent on their parents for a week or more. They will still use the same burrow for shelter and as a hiding place from predators.
Consequently, various threats face Ant-eating Chats’ eggs and chicks. For instance, the small eggs are eaten by Striped Field Mouse. Meanwhile, chicks are highly susceptible to infection brought by parasitic mites. These threats only make it apparent that they stay close to their parents to avoid danger.
The diet of Ant-eating Chats
As its name suggests, ants are a big part of their diet. Likewise, they feed on other insects such as termites, grasshoppers, beetles, bugs, caterpillars, millipedes, and small fruits. The Ant-eating Chats hunts for food by observing the prey from an elevated perch or by running after or stalking the prey on the ground before attacking it.
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