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Familiar Chat - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Mybs
Kgalagadi Transfontier Park, South Africa, September 2005
Oenanthe familiaris

Cercomela familiaris


Size 14-15cm (similar in size to a Cape Sparrow). Quite stockily built. Similar to various other chat and wheatear species in the south of its range where its tail pattern is distinctive

  • overall dull medium brown, paler below
  • ear-coverts often with an orangy patch
  • bill short, straight, black
  • legs and feet black
  • tail shortish: dark brown/blackish central feathers forming an inverted "T" surrounded by orange-buff outer tail feathers
  • rump orange-buff

Similar species

Karoo Chat (which see); Tractrac Chat; Sickle-winged Chat, Moorland Chat (which see)


Photo by rdavis
Mankwe Wildlife Reserve, Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa, November 2012

Africa south of the Sahara:
Western Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Zaire
Eastern Africa: Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi
Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and eSwatini
Middle East: Arabian Peninsula



Clements recognises the following subspecies [1]:


Rocky mountain slopes and its outcrops, eroded gullies, sparse woodland along drainage lines, farmyards and village gardens.



The Afrikaans name "spekvreter" (means "fat-eater"), and comes from the fact that it developed the habit of feeding on the lard used to grease wagons by the voortrekkers. It is a friendly bird and often hangs around farmhouses and homesteads. It eats insects, fruit, animal fat and scraps from around the house or farmyard by flying down to the ground from its perch and snaps up its prey.


It nests July- April, but will breed at any time when conditions are right - especially in the drier areas. The nest is a cup of hair, wool, feathers or soft plant material on a larger pad of coarser material, often anchored on a base of earth or stones. This is situated in a hole in the ground, the wall of a donga or rock face. It also nests on buildings, in nest boxes or even in disused Sociable Weaver nest.


The call is a harsh chak-chak or peep-chak-chak when alarmed.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2011. IOC World Bird Names (version 2.10). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.

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