White-browed Robin-Chat, Cossypha heuglini
Roberts No 599
By Pompie Burger
It’s not by chance that these good-looking birds are classified in Turdidae, the same family as the nightingales, as their musical abilities are on par with those of the nightingales.
Not only are they able to sing beautifully; they are also quite remarkable imitators of other birds. Typically their voice is a crescendo that is repeated several times, a sound well known to anyone who has been to the Kavango and Caprivi regions.
White browed Robin Chats are most active and vocal early in the morning and late afternoon, sometimes even after dark.
Although highly vocal and very colourful, they are not that easily spotted because they’re rather shy and prefer the dense thickets and undergrowth.
These birds are probably the most handsome of all the robins occurring in Southern Africa.
They occur in the north-eastern part of Namibia near riverine areas where they are rather common residents, often becoming habituated in gardens.
When breeding, they can become quite aggressive towards other birds. They even attack large snakes in the process of defending their territory. They were formerly known as Heuglin’s Robin, named after the German ornithologist Von Heuglin.
The best time to see them is probably during the breeding season at the beginning of summer when they are very active feeding their offspring. Their nests, built on the ground, are shaped like an open cup and are often re-used. They spend most of their time on the ground where they forage for food, their diet consisting mainly of ants, beetles and other insects. Less than 20% of their food consists of fruit.
About the author:
Based in Windhoek, Pompie Burger is an orthopaedic surgeon whose part-time passion is photography, in particular wildlife, and specifically birds. This regularly takes him to the most remote corners of the country, resulting in riveting images and articles.
Pompie is the author and photographer of the coffee table book Birds of Namibia, which was published in 2008. The book contains articles and photographs which attest to the insight and knowledge of an accomplished observer.
Read more of his articles in our Birding Section.
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘08 edition of Travel News Namibia.